The Summer of 2013! Moscow to Michigan, over to New York and back to Billings then over to Kansas City ending up in Denver then home to Vancouver and other places.

I am sitting in the passenger seat rolling down I94 just into Minnesota listening to the Carolina Chocolate Drops. What did we do before IPods? Oh yeah, I had a Walkman 4. Long live cassettes. It’s fun to see banjo player Danny Barnes releasing his albums on used cassettes. They are analog after all, and sound pretty good when they aren’t all garbled sounding…

I still remember borrowing my friend Conrad’s Midnight Oil cassette (10987654321) and leaving it on the dash of my 1970 VW van for the summer. It got a little melted but I think after all these years he has found it in his heart to forgive me. What a concert that band put on outdoors in Vancouver in the early 90’s on their Blue Sky Mining tour. I loved that band!

Now it’s time for Gordon Lightfoot. We’ve been skirting the Canadian border for a lot of this tour and I haven’t been listening to enough Canadian music. We were so close to Toronto and Montreal- both amazing cities to spend time. I’ve been living in Montana for a while but of course Canada will always be home. The Vancouver area specifically. And no, I don’t miss Tim Horton’s. I miss the people and the familiarity. But America is a pretty great place to be too.

So the trip from Idaho to Michigan was relatively uneventful. All 34 hours of it…We hadn’t been to The Ark in Ann Arbor for five or six years. It’s a pretty cool place to pay. So much history. Taking a look at all the performers who have played there is kind of a who’s who of the folk scene. We played a long set of tunes and it was nice to say hi to everyone afterward. In fact, I even had Michigan relatives come to the show!

One of the kids there was telling me about a 36 page illustrated book of original stories based on Thomas The Tank Engine. My 2-year-old Travis loves Thomas so I’m going to see about getting a copy for story time.

We’ve been driving through some incredible rainstorms lately, like right now near Minneapolis. It’s a great way to keep the van clean. (the outside at least…)

We had booked a hotel online so we headed there after meeting a few friends after the show. The area of the hotel where we were staying was cordoned off by yellow caution tape. Never a good sign. Was it a murder? Bedbugs? Raccoon infestation? The mind wanders…

But really it’s probably better not to know what went on in a hotel room the night or the weeks before. In the morning painters had arrived to continue their work so it was kind of a false alarm.

The last couple of years I’ve gotten used to being awakened by little kids through the night and usually pretty early in the morning so I’ve been enjoying a few extra z’s out here on the road with a wild and crazy rock & roll band. But it still feels good to get up in the morning before everyone else and find a treadmill, go for a walk, or read the paper with a nice cup of coffee. Obviously we aren’t getting rich out here, but it is kind of like being on a paid vacation, albeit a budget vacation. I miss the family of course but the boys seem to get a kick out of the fact that “Daddy is going over the mountains to play his guitar to earn money so he can buy us fig newtons sometimes” And I like getting the chance to see the American landscape, meet new people and play a guitar almost every night.

I just asked the guys in the van to describe the tour in one word stream of consciousness style right now and this is what happened:

Full tilt, Worthwhile

Baseball, Epic, Lotsofmilesandsmiles

Revealing? You tell me!

You can have fun guessing who said what if you want…or not.

We had a day off after the Ann Arbor show so we drove to Cleveland and went to the ball game versus Kansas City. It’s kind of an enjoyable way to spend an evening. Way more fun than watching Storage Wars re-runs at the hotel. OK, maybe that was a bad example…We love our reality TV!

I bought some peanuts and a couple of the guys enjoyed a few $11 dollar beers. Life is good in the music business apparently.

The next day I went for lunch with my friends Heather and Steve and met their beautiful baby daughter. It’s funny how the years drift by and before you know it people have been friends for 10 years or more.

We headed down to the Beachland Ballroom to set up for the show around 6. We’ve played at the actual ballroom as an opener in the past but we generally play the tavern that is attached to the Ballroom and holds a hundred people or so. That block is a real vortex for music lovers with the Ballroom and a bunch of record stores and cool vintage shops. I read that Polka King Frankie Yankovic grew up there in the Colwood area of Cleveland. I had a nice talk with a woman in a coffee shop who told me about the changing face of the neighbourhood. Apparently houses are still relatively inexpensive as the crime is still pretty high but that is slowly changing. And there are incentives and grants to get people back into the area to fix up some of the gorgeous turn of the century homes that need a little, or a lot of TLC.

The show itself? Fun. 18 years in and about three thousand shows later for me and it’s still fun. For me, the band and sometimes even the audience too! It’s not a huge place but it was full and there were road trippers and just like every night, there was someone there who first saw the band in Idaho.

One thing about the Clumsy Lovers is we can set up and unload our stuff quicker than any band I have ever seen except for the Red Elvis’s.

We did a few days in Texas with them a long time ago. They seemed to show up right at showtime and be unpacked and playing in about 10 minutes.

But we would come a close second.

Everything tucks away and fits nicely in our van. We traded a touring rig with a trailer that was fast becoming expensive and unreliable for a streamlined, fuel-efficient minimalist system. That factor, staying at friends places and stuffing into one or sometimes 2 hotel rooms, and sweet gigs continuing to roll in have put things back on an even keel again. But it’s still a work in progress after all these years with daily dilemmas out here on the road: “AC seems to have stopped working in the van. Better get that fixed. Better give that man $813 dollars…” First world problems to be sure but the money needs to come from somewhere. And a blown PA speaker and a flat tire in Brooklyn to add to the list…but it’s all manageable.

I’ve been listening to financial advice guy Dave Ramsey in the van recently. I agree with most of what he has to say, but I doubt that he would endorse a 44-year-old father of 3 being in a traveling band that exists pretty far beneath the radar. But that’s ok. I know a lot of artists and musicians that could make more money doing other things but for a number of reasons, they choose not to. There are the success stories in the arts, but they really are few and far between. But if you keep your expectations realistic things seem to fall into place. But maybe we should all dare to dream a little bit more?

So we headed to New York State the next day- a  big and beautiful state! And back to the wonderful world of tolls…We’ve played in and around NY a lot over the years but I don’t think we’ve ever made it to the Adirondacks. So pretty. And so close to Montreal! I saw a sign that said it was only 120 miles away.

We were here to play Jimmy and Whitney’s wedding. In another roundabout small world kind of way we had played Jimmy’s brothers wedding in Santa Barbara a few years ago so they asked us if we were available and we marked it on the ol’ calendar. We were going to fly in as it is one heck of a drive but we decided to build the current tour around it.

Play shows on the way there, then play shows on the way back.  A tried, tested and true way of doing things…

And what a beautiful place for a wedding! Wow! Very Great Gatsbyish! We played for 2 and a half hours straight through after the speeches and the people cut a rug and had a blast! Everyone was very gracious and the bride and groom were tickled pink and that’s all any band could ask for.

The next day we got up really early and drove into the city for a Yankees game. We bought tickets and starting climbing the stairs and kept climbing and climbing all the way to the last row! But the view was awesome and it was shady with a gentle breeze on a 90 plus day. NY lost to the Royals if anyone is keeping track.

We headed back to our hotel in Brooklyn and we all scattered in various directions. A couple of us went to the Rockwood Music Hall. That was fun. The next day Jeff and I walked around Williamsburg and I later met up with an old friend from Canada to watch game 6 of the Stanley Cup. (Chicago beat Boston to win it) Took the subway back to the hotel. NY is a pretty exciting place to be. Quite different from small town Montana. Both have their charm that’s for sure.

After New York we played shows in Indiana and Wisconsin and we eventually ended up in Billings for the inaugural Billings Grassroots Fest.

Overall, it was a really fun tour with lots of miles covered and hundreds of thousands of notes played!

So since those shows in June, July and August have happened and I am sitting here in Denver getting ready to play the last show of the summer.

Bozeman, Whitefish, Missoula, Red Lodge, Helena, Livingstone, Boise, Spokane, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, Wichita, Lincoln and Vail and other forgotten places were all stops along the way too.

The Summer of 2013? Two thumbs up!

Missoula to Milwaukee

Six weeks on the road has begun! In the old days of the band, ten-week tours were the norm. But alas, things have changed and six weeks seems like a long time to be away from home.

Moscow, Idaho is where we kicked things off. John’s Alley has always been a great place to play, even after all these years. It wasn’t over the top crazy busy, but both Friday and Saturday brought out a lot of people. We had a practice Saturday with our new drummer Luke. He came out on tour early to catch a few shows and discuss drum stuff with Devin. So far it’s been a pretty seamless transition. It’s definitely a challenge to memorize all the various stops and starts and tempo changes so we hunkered down for a couple of days of practice in Missoula at our friend Steve’s house.

We’ve been trying to stay at friend’s places when hotels aren’t provided. Partly to save money but also to have more of a homey (not banjo player Jason) experience on the road.

Thursday evening we drove a couple of hours to Big Fork, Montana. It used to be a regular stop for us but we haven’t been there for 5 or more years. Jason was under the impression that it had burnt down but when we arrived it was still there. Ryan and Colin have done a great job renovating the place and we salute them for bringing live music back to the venue. We had a fun show- Luke’s first with the band, and we all stayed up afterwards socializing for a while before hitting the floor in the apartment upstairs.

The next morning came pretty early and we were off to Missoula for a radio interview on The Trail, 103.3. I connected with DJ Tracy via Facebook and she invited us to come down to be a guest on local lunch. Technically I’m a Missoula local! (at least for the next year or so)

Tracy has a really great presence on the air. Relaxed, soothing and knowledgeable. And they play great music. Sort of a mix between older stuff (REM, Nirvana…) and new stuff- The Decemberists, The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons…They also play local music too.

Missoula has a pretty vibrant music scene for such a small place. Some of the bands and songwriters I know and like: Tom Catmull, Larry Hirshberg, Britt Arneson, Josh Farmer, Stellarondo, Richie Reinhold, Amy Martin, Russ Nasset, Cash For Junkers, Aran Buzzas, Cold Hard Cash, Butter, Love Is A Dog From Nebraska and a bunch of others that I can’t think of right now.

So, back to the radio interview. We talked for ten minutes or so and Tracy spun a couple of our songs. It was pre-recorded so we were able to listen to it on our way back to my place in the van.

Friday night was our big show in my new hometown~ Missoula! I was actually pretty excited to be playing and I took it as an opportunity to reach out to my new friends in the community and invite them to the show. It was old -school promotion the way I used to do it with various bands I played with back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Postering, handbills, and a lot of what they call “social networking” although others might call it “wasting time.” Molly Laich over at the Missoula Independent was nice enough to do a feature on the band too.

Every Friday for the past couple of years, the Top Hat has had a free family-friendly show. Normally it’s local bands that play a variety of styles. It’s super fun and we try to bring the boys down there when I am in town. At first it was a little weird for me to see toddlers saddled up at the bar sipping a juice but it starts to feel perfectly normal after a little while.

I wanted to start out our night at the Top Hat by playing a show for the kids. Partly so my little guys and girl would get a chance to see Dad play, and also so that my Missoula friends with families would get a chance to check out the Lovers without having to hire a babysitter. Tons of people showed up and it made me so happy to see mine and all the other little ones dancing in the Toddler Moshpit!” (As my friend Britt calls it)

I had asked Cash For Junkers to open up the later show and they did a bang-up job getting the night started. We hit the stage around 11 and played until the wee hours. Good times and many familiar happy Missoula faces.

The band all crashed out on my floor and we left for Helena the next day.

The event was a Halloween themed benefit for a place called Exploration Works. We rolled in about 4 and were loaded in and sound-checked in about 30 minutes. We’ve got doing our own sound down to a science and everyone plays a role in getting us set up quickly and efficiently. After all, the less time we waste at sound check allows for more time watching COPS at the hotel!

The costumes were amazing! It seems to me that one is either a “I love getting dressed up for Halloween!” kind of person or the “Putting a costume together for Halloween is a real pain!” type. My default costume has always beenThe Lumberjack. Tuck your pants into your socks and put a toque on. Simple. Festive. Canadianesque. No muss no fuss. So that’s what us boys wore and Robyn donned a cowboy hat and tied a stuffed horse around her waist.

The show was super fun and everyone danced and danced and danced. We kicked into The Monster Mash at some point and that was a highlight from my vantage point.  We played pretty late and hit the hotel for a little shut-eye.

The next day we headed up the highway to Billings to play at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company. Another benefit, this time for the Step foundation. We really love playing here.

When we first started playing Billings all those years ago the crowd was generally pretty sparse. Hasn’t been that way lately. (As he knocks on wood) Peopled showed up in droves! Well, cars actually to be more specific. OK, people showed up in droves in cars…

We’ve met so many talented and amazing people in Billings. This time we had an all female opening band called Maxie Ford featuring our friend’s daughter Katie. Excellent singing and instrumentation, and the icing on the cake was the tap dancer keeping time in the back. The crowd loved it! As I was watching them I was thinking that it sure would be nice if my little daughter Eve grows up to create something beautiful for the world.

Katie’s parents were nice enough to put us up at their place and the late night pickin’ and grinning commenced and went on into the wee hours.

A good start to the tour.

Currently driving through North Dakota on our way to Milwaukee.

 

 

 

Article in the Missoula Independent!

Life after kids

The Clumsy Lovers’ Trevor Rogers keeps rollin’ on

by 

Trevor Rogers, guitarist and singer for the Clumsy Lovers, is a displaced Canadian living in Missoula with his wife, two sons and infant daughter. For many touring bands, having three kids in as many years would be the end of the line, but Rogers isn’t letting family life slow him down. Beginning Oct. 19, he’ll set out on a six-week tour with fellow band members Jason Horney, Jeff Leonard, Devin Rice and Robyn Jesson. After a couple of shows in Idaho and Big Fork, the band will play the Top Hat in Missoula on Oct. 26, the band’s first show in town since Rogers moved his family here last year.

I first met Rogers last September on a crowded Saturday night at the Rhino. A mutual friend introduced us based on this thing we had in common: We were both artists from out of town, hoping to suck the marrow out of Missoula’s strange and eclectic scene. Funny how this town works—a year later I invited his entire family over for a vegetarian barbecue in my meat-eating roommate’s backyard.

Missoula Independent news

“We’ve toured in a lot of different vehicles over the years,” Rogers tells me, including a van with 400,000 miles. The band has been traveling together for nearly two decades, and they do all the driving themselves, so this latest stint is not their first rodeo. Rogers explains to me with elaborate hand gestures how the drums will be stacked into his family’s minivan (I forget to ask what the kids will be riding in while he’s on the road), how he’s taking just one guitar instead of two, and how they plan to “cannonball it” the 1,200 miles from their gig in Billings to the show in Milwaukee, Wis., two days later.

“What’s it mean to ‘cannonball it’?” I ask. I think I imagined a human slingshot, but no. It means the band will do the drive straight through, alternating pilots for all 19 hours of that flat, cow-sprinkled expanse through North Dakota and Minnesota.

This latest tour is in support of their ninth album, 2010’s Make Yourself Known. The Clumsy Lovers’ sound is a blend of rock and bluegrass, with some Celtic influence. The beat bounces and meanders and so, too, do its listeners. The music is designed for dancing, which means they have to get out on the road and play shows. Lots and lots of shows.

“We’ve played the Top Hat around a dozen times,” he says, “And maybe 25 times in Missoula overall.”

Those numbers represents a grueling tour schedule over nearly 20 years totaling more than 2,500 live gigs in 49 states and throughout Canada.

The Clumsy Lovers are a working band and have been for many years. These days, Rogers schedules tours around the family schedule. His sons are shy toddlers with tow-blond hair and a penchant for playing in the dirt. His three-month-old daughter looked around the backyard at everything with what I guessed was a knowing bemusement. When they first arrived, the two mini poodles I’ve been dog sitting charged the boys and made them cry, a natural reaction when you’re so low to the ground; imagine it: My little dogs arrived like snarling white lions.

The Clumsy Lovers started making records in Vancouver in 1993. Since then, they’ve gone through some personnel changes, but Rogers remains a constant. “The band is getting younger,” he tells me. Rogers left his day job to tour full time at 27, and now he’s a young-looking 44. Jesson, their latest fiddle player, is 24 and plays like a maniac. Rice, the 24-year-old drummer, joined the band straight out of music school, after a series of killer auditions on Skype. Such is the makings of a modern band.

We are busy talking about the group’s various adventures and I burn everyone’s veggie burgers. They looked like hockey pucks, but we decide they are edible. Inside, my roommate’s grilled meat goes cold on the counter next to him while he and Rogers talk about the election and war. It is deliciously old fashioned.

Many times throughout the night, we halt our conversation to take various things out of the kid’s mouths: a piece of dog food, lint, some BB gun pellets out of a box that looks to a two-year old like a milk carton. It might sound like I’m joking, but I mean it: The whole thing was very rock and roll.

Late Summer 2012

Started out the tour by playing high up above Spokane at the Arbor Crest Winery? Then over to play a benefit for the Montana Watershed Coordination Council in a 100-year-old barn in East Helena, Montana. How bout’ a club show at the Zebra in Bozeman, River Fest in Pocatello, Idaho then ending up on beautiful Lummi Island to play a super fun wedding in Washington State? Summertime, and the living is easy…

Road Diary~ Idaho/Montana

Well that was a fun run of shows!

Twelve in total. 3852 miles.

The list reads a lot like a Johnny Cash song: “I’ve been to Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota…” In our case it was mostly up and down the I90 in Idaho and Montana with a few other highways thrown in for good measure: “We went to Pocatello, West Yellowstone, Idaho Falls, Pray, Billings, Moscow, Schweitzer Mountain, Absarokee, Butte, Billings again, Whitefish, Helena.”

With a party in Missoula thrown in for good measure.

Summer touring is the best, although the heat can be a little daunting. It was a hundred degrees when we played in Billings! New fiddler Robyn was great, and the band was mostly in good spirits. Saw lots of old friends and met lots of new people too so that is always encouraging for the future.

I was a little stressed throughout the tour as we were due home on July 7th, the 7th being the due date of our third child. Labour started the day I got back and little Eve was born on July 9th! Such a cutie! Home now for a few weeks then we fire it up again July 28th at the Bainbridge Island Bluegrass Festival.

Moscow, Idaho

February 17th/18th

Moscow, Idaho

With all of us currently living in different places, it takes a little more planning to get everyone together. The old days of all of us hopping in the van, in the same town and heading out together to take on the brave new world are over. It’s a new paradigm in so many different ways both personally, professionally and within the music industry itself. A couple of us read the musings of a music blogger named Bob Lefsetz to garner his take on the situation. He thinks that technology has leveled the platform for aspiring musicians and the world is your oyster. But there are no guarantees that you will ever get out of the basement, or to the next level no matter how often you tweet, post videos or update your website. He maintains that if your music is good enough, people will eventually notice. I agree with Bob that the one major thing a musician can control is getting out there and playing live and connecting with people who appreciate your music. So, amidst all these shifts, that’s what I think this band can continue to do if we are smart about it. We will never be U2, but we are The Clumsy Lovers. And we’ve survived this long and met thousands of wonderful people along the way. Why stop now?

So, where was I…

I loaded up my little car in Missoula and set off for Moscow, Idaho last Friday. About 40 miles up the Interstate 90 I had to stop the car as 3 large deer were crossing. That went fine but they sprinted into the eastbound lane and one of them was mowed down by a van going in the opposite direction. I had never seen that before. Pretty disturbing actually. I’m generally a cautious driver but I was about 10 mph more cautious for the rest of the journey.

Met up with the gang to set up at John’s Alley and afterwards went for Chinese food on the main street. Such a quaint little town and the band has had so many good shows there going back to the early 90’s. After that nutritional goodness, we were ready to rock! And we did! People seemed to be enjoying themselves. We were a little rusty but all in all I though we played pretty well. The venue actually records every show which is cool for posterity, but I think one really needs to be there in the room to get the true flavour of the experience. I was tired by the time we finished around 1:45. I was up with the boys at 5 a.m. after a short sleep, drove quite a ways and played all night. Not complaining, just a reminder to myself that I’m not 21 anymore.

Slept in a bit on Saturday at the mighty Royal Inn. That place certainly has a lot of character and is conveniently located near the venue. Old friend Jill bought me lunch at a new bbq place she is managing, had a little Mexican food later with my friend Storm for dinner and stopped in to see Brett at Nectar to swap child stories. By then it was 9:30 and time to play again. Again, I thought the band played well and we did some experimenting with songs and solos. The band is at it’s best when we are spontaneous for sure. Loose in a good way. But there is a fine line between loose in a good way and borderline terrible. Saturday night we were loose in a good way. (Just don’t listen to the recording…)

Seattle/Spokane

Nothing like a little road trip to cure the winter blues. Actually, I’m quite happy these days for the most part, but if you aren’t I highly recommend a little road trip. A change of scenery is usually a good thing. I had 474 sunny miles there, and 474 sunny miles back to contemplate life while listening to AM 750 Country Classics. Loretta, Merle, Willie, George…I lost reception through the 4th of July pass and switched over to talk radio from Spokane to Seattle. Romney, Newt, Obamacare, Iran…and just like that I had arrived in the magical place known as Seattle.

We were hired by a longtime fan of the band to play her 40th birthday party at a club in Pioneer Square. We’ve never played Amyfest before. It was fun. A full house of family and friends in a quirky little bar. One of the highlights for me was when one of the staff walked in front of me with a deli tray to put in the fridge behind the stage. I’ll bet that hasn’t happened to Pear Jam lately…

Jason’s Greyhound was late once again so he missed the first set. It’s pretty apparent how dependant we are on the banjo for the majority of our material. Things still sound good, just different. After the show we stayed up the road at a friend’s place. We felt really safe once inside as they had two pit bulls. The next morning Annette and Chris made us breakfast and we were on our way to the Knitting Factory in Spokane.

We’ve been playing “The Knit” on and off for quite a while. It’s a fantastic club that features a full on light show, massive PA system and even a couple of guys to help us load our gear in. I think they were quite happy when they saw the minimalism of our set up. Everyone takes a handful and bob’s your uncle, the Clumsy Lovers have loaded in their gear.  We set up and sound checked and had time to chill out. I had a bit of a Spinal Tap moment going from floor to floor in the elevator trying to find the green room.

Our friend Matt, who once played with Ten Mile Tide opened up the show with his new band Folkinception. Groovy tunes. Good musicians. We played straight through from 9:30 to close to midnight. Sound was good. Audience was festive. Band played fairly well for the most part. It was a high-energy affair. 500 or so came to see us so that was nice to see. Spokane has always been a little hit and miss for us. After the show we got to reconnect briefly with some friends in the lobby then it was off to bed. I got up early and made my way back to Missoula with the contents of our storage locker in my car to store at my place.

Anybody out there looking for a vintage Clumsy Lover t-shirt from 1996 or so? A 2 song Christmas CD? A Barnburner poster? A gas receipt from November of 2003?

Montana/Idaho Fall Tour October 2011

staged rock & roll shot

Our first show was in Great Falls, Montana at Machinery Row. The owners are very supportive of the band after seeing us play 12 years ago in Las Vegas. They’ve been doing a good job bringing in regional and national touring acts. James McMurtry and Tony Furtado are two recent examples. Being a Friday night we were hoping for a good turnout and we were not disappointed. In fact, I would say we were pleasantly surprised that it was a full house and a fun night of music. Here’s to live music in Great Falls!

On Saturday afternoon we did the pleasant and beautiful drive over to Helena for a Halloween party presented by Exploration Works. We had played the same event back in 2008 and it was whole lot of fun. Little Orphan Annie, Sarah Palin, ghouls, goblins and pumpkins all made an appearance that night. We were looking forward to being back and reacquainting ourselves with our Helena friends. The event was held in the ballroom of the Best Western and the place was really well decorated.  We had a little time to mingle while they were doing the charitable auction. Dressed up as a bowler, Roy told us he dislikes Canadians almost as much as people from Iowa. We worked on him through the night and he eventually came around and big burly hugs were exchanged. A tip for next year’s party: If you dress up as a bowler you can keep a six-pack in the bowling bag!

We dressed up as lumberjacks, rockers, power rangers and the icing on the cake was the intriguing Nascar man. Show was a blast and everyone had a good time. For some weird reason the band was banned from the hotel when we stayed there in 2008. All I know is I went to sleep. Someone must have had a loud party or maybe staff thought someone in the band was having a loud party. I blame a former drummer…So yeah; we are a pretty badass band I guess. A badass band that plays “You Are My Sunshine” three nights out of four… So we set up a tent in the alley and caught our 40 winks.

Sunday was a short drive up to Pray, Montana where Chico Hot Springs is located. It’s a really charming historic lodge. We’ve been playing there a couple of times a year for ten years or so. It’s always a blast. Lots of people road trip from other places in the state to see the band, have a soak in the pool and spend the night in the lodge. Apparently room 349 is haunted. Jason stayed in that room and no paranormal activity was reported. However, he is a deep sleeper…

The show was the usual high-energy affair.  It was a pajama themed party so we all wore robes to fit in. Pale Canadians in white bathrobes. Worth the price of admission right there. Montana is a hotbed for celebrities. Almost as many famous people as grizzly bears at last count. We’ve seen Jeff Bridges and Dennis Quaid up at Chico. This time it was National Geographic bear expert Casey Anderson. Rebecca spotted him with her eagle eyes. One of the nice things about playing in the saloon is we get to sleep pretty much upstairs and we don’t load the gear until morning so we get to hang out with the staff and some of the friends we’ve gotten to know over the years. In the morning we loaded up and headed towards Billings. We stopped in Livingstone and I ran into the owners of Chico at the Subway. We played Mike’s 75th birthday party 5 years ago already. It reminds me once again how fast time is flying.

We got to Billings around 4 and checked into the hotel. Met a nice young woman from Bulgaria in the lobby. It occurred to me as we were talking that I really don’t know anything about Bulgaria. In fact I probably couldn’t point it out on a map. Just another place that would be incredibly interesting to visit. They appear to be a good-looking people based on my limited experience.

So we loaded in at the Yellowstone Brewery. It’s become a great place for us to play in Billings. George, Donnie, Randy and the others run a really great show there.  They make gin the good old-fashioned way along with really tasty brew. It’s an all ages concert so it’s nice to see a mixture of people having a good time together. On this particular evening it was a benefit for an initiative to build a new library in Billings. I don’t know much about it but encouraging people to read books can’t be such a bad thing. If I read more I’m certain my writing would quickly improve and I wouldn’t need to think so hard when called upon to spell a word like necessary or extra-terrestrial.  Speaking of reading, I’m back on the bandwagon with the Keith Richards bio and the classic On The Road. Quick Keith Richards’ factoid: He had a pet mouse as a kid called Gladys. See, reading is good. I never would have known that if I hadn’t dug into his book. It’s actually a really fun read. So many stories and anecdotes and hilarious British slang and wit.

So we played the show and it was fun. David Cleaves from local band The Sons of Billings joined us on mandolin for the second set. We finished up around 8:30. Lots of people were in costumes. We asked Wonder Woman to join us at a local pub down the street where some other friends were hanging out too. A couple of us went to Karaoke at the Crystal later. The Crystal is a bit of an experience on an ordinary day but seeing as how it was Halloween the interesting factor was tripled at least. If you haven’t heard Frankenstein, Raggedy Ann and Sarah Palin sing The Girls Just Want To Have Fun, well quite frankly you haven’t lived. It’s a must see in life. Kind of like seeing the Grand Canyon, The Pyramids or the Taj Mahal. Head on down to the Crystal in Billings, Montana next Halloween if you get a chance and you’ll see what I mean.

So we said goodbye to the Bulgarian, Billings and the Best Western and headed on down the highway to Butte America. We’ve been playing here a couple of times at year for the last ten years or so, normally at the Silver Dollar. There is so much character in Historic Uptown Butte that it’s off the charts on the character meter. I’ve had so much fun over the years and have met so many wonderful, earnest and humorous people. The shows are always fun too. Sometimes the place is packed, sometimes the numbers are a little thin but Butte people know how to have fun anywhere. Anytime.

For the show itself, we played a lot of up-tempo barnburners but we also tried 9 or 10 songs that we rarely play anymore so that was pretty fun. The energy was loose and festive and we kept her going pretty late. It was a cold walk back to the hotel. Fall is definitely giving way to winter temperatures in these parts. We got up and headed to the Dollar to pack up our gear on a gloriously sunny day and did the three-hour drive to our next stop: Idaho Falls.

We had a night off and posted on Facebook that we were looking for fun things to do. Lots of great suggestions but we ended up watching three hours of Storage Wars. I fell asleep at 11:30. Unheard of but I sure felt great in the morning. Karaoke in the hotel lounge will have to wait until next time. I took the van in for a wobbly tire and ended up with a whopping bill three hours later. The cost of doing business I guess. Can’t get to all these places with a broken down vehicle. This current van has been great. 520,000 kilometers and still going strong but I dream about a new vehicle almost every night

Back in the day we would play at DB’s in Idaho Falls a couple of times a year but they stopped doing live music for a time. But now the bands are back and the locals seem to be enthusiastically showing up. We did an epic four sets of music. Everyone had a sweet time and we played until the wee hours.

So then it was off to Pocatello for the weekend. We normally play every summer outdoors at Idaho State University, and once or twice a year indoors at The First National, or The First Nash as the locals call it. We’ve got our load-ins down to an almost perfect science. We can be unloaded, set up and sound-checked with our own PA system in 20 minutes or so. Unfortunately for the show itself, it was the first snowfall of the year and that seemed to keep people at home. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun crowd but not the crushing numbers we have come to expect. We made a few uncharacteristic blunders on stage but recovered to have an OK night.

Saturday was super relaxing at the hotel. Slept in, caught up on some computer work, ate a few slices of pizza, had a bath & a shower and left for the club at 7. Night was off to a much better start. Weather was mild and the town showed up. It was a nice surprise to have banjo player Jason’s family show up ready to throw down and party up a storm. Because the clocks were scheduled to fall back at 2 am, we determined that we would keep the music going until 3! That’s the latest we’ve played in a long time. Band was a little tired by the end of that odyssey but it felt like a fitting way to end the tour. 6:30 wake up came early the next day let me tell you…

montana sky


When In East Vancouver Stay @ The Hotel Yorba

Facebook Check-ins.

Annoying and intriguing, creepy and fascinating all at the same time. Let me get this straight, you can post online for everyone to see where you happen to be? At any given moment? Facebook lets you call your location whatever you want: so and so is @ Home, Mom & Dads, Under A Rock, A Crossroads…

My new favourite song to play with The Clumsy Lovers is Hotel Yorba by the White Stripes. Our bass player Chris suggested we try it at practice and add some fiddle and banjo tunes afterwards. It sounded a bit rough at first, but it’s coming along. I imagine we will try it at our shows this weekend in Moscow, Idaho or Spokane. So I created a Facebook Check-in at The Hotel Yorba. Why? Not entirely sure…I’ll discuss it with Dr. Phil when I see him next Tuesday.

You can check-in to if you want, but I’ve heard The Hotel California has a nicer pool. But you can never leave! Not that you would ever want to…

The Hotel Yorba

A little piece of Detroit in the heart of Mount Pleasant!


Practice

We’ve designated February as “practice month.” We are working on plenty of new tunes, medley’s, frenetic fiddle parts, banjo breakdowns, tear-jerkers, shanties & singalongs…at a practice space here in Vancouver. Looking forward to playing new material in the spring!

Compilation CD

The band has been on a lot of compilation CD’s over the years, but not as many lately as we’ve been taking things a lot slower. So it was nice to see we are going to be on a recording put together by The Milwaukee Irish Fest. We’ve played there several times in the past and it is huge! Just ask Wikipedia: “Irish Fest is the largest celebration of Irish music and culture in the world.”

We’ve met a lot of great people in Wisconsin over the years so it will be nice to be going back this summer!

Tracks:

Red Hot Chilli Pipers Crooked Bridge
Screaming Orphans Liar
More Power to Your Elbow Beautiful Bundoran
The Clumsy Lovers Waterbound
Peatbog Faeries The Anthropologist
Slainte Mhath Ox
Brother Take You Back
Seven Nations Infinity
Bad Haggis Rocky Road to Dublin
Seanchai & the Unity Squad Irish Catholic Boy
Kila On Taobhe Tuathail Amach
Black 47 w/Eileen Ivers San Patricio Brigade
Young Dubliners Waxies Dargle
The Prodigals The Sailors Return
Hothouse Flowers Your Love Goes On
Rawlins Cross Long Night
Scythian Technoccordion
Enter the Haggis One Last Drink

Seattle

We drove down to Seattle yesterday for a show at the Tractor Tavern. We sure do love that place. It’s a great building for sure, but it seems to me and everyone I talk to that it’s the staff, the general vibe of the neighbourhood and most importantly the ghost-like musical echos of the thousands of awesome bands that have graced the stage that makes Dan’s living room special.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been playing there for about a decade already! Where did my 20’s go?…

OK, you caught me fibbin’. To be more accurate what I really meant was that it’s hard to believe we’ve been playing there for about a decade already! Where did my 30’s go? Perhaps I will go looking for them this afternoon…

Tonight the place was packed full of friendly people. The band was firing on all cylinders. Good times ensued. We wanted to rock and roll all night but to quote Leonard Cohen and the equally iconic Semisonic, all of a sudden it was Closing Time. We drove back to Canada after the show arriving home just in time for a tasty breakfast.

Boise/Salt Lake City

Wow! How did it get to be the end of summer already? The last road trip of the season is already upon us? Impossible. I remember thinking about this weekend at the beginning of the summer and feeling that August 28th was a long ways away.

We played Friday night in Boise at the Knitting Factory. It’s not the coziest place to perform but it does feel like a rock and roll show with all the lights and the massive P.A. system. There was no opener, so it was just us playing all night long. We played long and loud. It was great to see so many familiar faces. The energy in the room was way up! We don’t get as many folks out as we did in the halcyon days of a decade ago, but those that do come out sure know how to cut loose, sing along and generally get wild. Way to go Idaho!

We left fairly early on Saturday for the drive to Salt Lake City. We were headlining the 2nd annual Intermountain Acoustic Bluegrass Association Festival downtown at the mighty Gallivan Center. It was a windy drive and storms were expected, but the storm blew over and left us with a beautiful warm and windy evening. We hit the stage around 8:30 and rocked the heart of downtown Salt Lake City for a couple of hours. It’s so much fun to be loud and brazen in a public space. And not a single noise complaint! (Maybe there was, but most of the time ignorance is bliss.) When I think about the limitations that most of us have when it comes to even turning up the stereo in the home or workplace, it’s kind of hard to believe we get to play at about the same volume as a jet taking off in the heart of an American city!  When I practice in my apartment I generally sing an octave lower and strum my guitar a little quieter to keep the decibels to a minimum for the sake of my neighbours. Not ideal, but until I move to a cabin in the hills of Appalachia I will keep it toned down. Most of the time. You should too- Keep it toned down most of the time, then move to the Appalachian hills!

The show was really fun. The organizers were super sweet and the staging was top notch. I had a great monitor mix and could hear everything perfectly so that went a long way in terms of my personal enjoyment. But the big news was that Jason proposed to his girlfriend Renee ONSTAGE! About half way through the set we played an old time tune called Rosalie McFall where Jason takes a turn playing solos on a bunch of different instruments. After a while we got Renee onstage to help with his percussion solo. Jason, the true romantic that he is, then got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. (She said yes) It was extra special as she and he had met at the very same location seven years ago. Congratulations to them! After all that emotion, I then had to sing the last verse of the song. Lets put it this way, I sounded a lot like Peter Brady attempting to sing “Time to Change” when his voice was changing. It was truly quite emotional. The episode AND Jason’s proposal to Renee!

We had sixteen hours to think about Saturday night and other things the next day in the van as we drove back to Vancouver…

Bellingham/San Juan Island

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

What A Sunset!
Levi And I

 

Utah

Park City, Utah

We had driven to Boise the night before to break up the drive to Utah so we left at a reasonable time in the morning for the gig. We had played their summer concert series the year before so we already knew what to expect. And our expectations were met! Beautiful weather, awesome mountain views and close to a thousand people digging the tunes. It must have said in the newspaper that bringing a cute kid along was required for admission, because there sure were a lot of them!

After the show we retired to the condo and did some of the regular stuff that bands do. Some of the highlights:

-We put a crouton on Jason’s shoulder and took a picture of it without him noticing

-Talked about Lebron James moving to Miami

-Changed Tyler’s homepage on his laptop to something taboo

-Ate pizza. Ate more pizza

-Luxuriated in the hot–tub

(I won’t say who went in as naked as the day he or SHE was born)

-Watched a show on Panda mating habits

-Saw an advertisement for a show called “Lifestyles with Rebecca”

-Watched Henry Winkler flirt with Joy Behar whilst promoting his book about what it was like growing up with Dyslexia. The Fonz has still got it!

-Surfed the net, online pokered, tweeted, and status updated

Life on the road. Thank you and goodnight!

Idaho/Montana

It was a 4 a.m. departure from Vancouver on Friday morning. We made good time and got to Lewiston Idaho in the early afternoon. We seem to end up In Lewiston about once a year. This time we were back behind Boomers on an outdoor stage playing with The Bellboys who were mostly born and raised in the area so it was kind of a homecoming gig for them. It was a beautiful night with a bright moon overhead. A couple of hundred people showed up and a good time was had by all.

We left early Saturday morning for the Mt. Helena Music Festival. Most of the journey is alongside a river. Beautiful for sure, but kind of slow going in the “make good time” department. But we generally allow plenty of time so we rewarded ourselves with a half -hour pit stop at the Missoula Taco Bell. We’ve played the festival a few times in the past and Jim and his crew always present an interesting and diverse line-up of folk, rock, blues and Cajun music. This year was no exception with Michelle Shocked and a bunch of great bands from Louisiana among others rocking Helena in the sunshine!

We took the stage at six and played hard for a solid 90 minutes. The summertime outdoor vibe is always a good one. So wonderful to see people of all ages enjoying the music. There’s always something that happens that lives on in your memory years after the show: seeing Kevin Costner in Las Vegas, or Jeff Bridges at a wedding, or a freak storm knocking out the power at a festival forcing us to play unamplified, a cute kid joining us onstage, a long lost friend showing up, Rebecca’s 89 year old Grandma making a surprise appearance in Seattle…I could go on and on and on… After our set in Helena, we were presented with a card signed by several hundred in the audience as we played. So sweet and a nice keepsake to keep with us in the van. Won’t forget that anytime soon.

Idaho

Sometimes it seems a little crazy to travel so far to play only a couple of shows. But at the end of the day I think that we all generally agree that the payoff overrides the monotony of the long journey there and back. This weekend was no exception. It was a fifteen-hour drive each way but it came and went like most days eventually do.

Friday we played a house concert/party at Kirk and Kerri’s amazing place overlooking the Snake River outside of Twin Falls. A GOOD time was had by all! Great people. Great situation. They even made us pancakes in the morning!

Then it was on to Pocatello for Riverfest. We’ve been there before and were excited to be coming back. Ecological preservation is a great cause for sure and we knew our Pocatello friends would be raring to go. The thunder and rain that threatened to derail things passed over, the sun came out and we all had a good time for a few hours. One friend who was conspicuously absent was a wonderful young lady and a longtime fan of the band who unfortunately lost her battle with cancer earlier this year. We miss you Ryleigh! A woman named Barb left a comment on our Facebook page that seems like a fitting way to wrap up this entry:

“It was very special that you remembered Ryleigh. Heart-warming to see her parents enjoying themselves. I looked to the sky and knew she was lovin’ it too!”

 

Oregon

Portland, Oregon

It was a long day on Thursday to get from Vancouver to the show in Bend. Things got rolling about 5 A.M and we arrived at the Silver Moon around dinnertime. Oregon is such a beautiful and geographically diverse state that’s for sure. Such an awesome drive but it left us a little tired. Thankfully, the chipper and youthful Tyler was kind enough to stick around to organize some of our technical requirements so we could drift over to the mighty Shilo Inn to gather our bearings before the show. Our friends the Bellboys opened up and rocked hard with an energetic set that went over well with the crowd. Then it was us and lo and behold for the 2600th time we did the same thing- rocked hard with an energetic set! We’ve had our ups and downs here in Bend as we’ve had in most places over the last decade and a half so it felt really good to be in “the zone” in front of an appreciative audience.

For sure we continue to do all the things bands are supposed to do (send out our mailing list, take hopeful stabs at social networking, try our best to make good albums, add new songs to the show…etc) but we always come back to the obvious realization that at the end of the day the future of the Clumsy Lovers is firmly rooted to our performance on any given night. Every night really. We still figure that if we play to our potential, to crowds big medium or small, the word will get out the next day that something cool and unusual transpired the night before. And that will hopefully inspire you and your friends and your friends’ friends to want to check us out the next time we roll through town. Or the time after that. It’s an ongoing experiment. We’ll let you know how it all ends up. We will one day publish our findings.

When the evening came, we all slept like fallen Doug Firs and awoke refreshed for the three-hour drive to Hood River, reminding ourselves along the way that any drive through the mountains without snow is a good drive.  Hood River is a town we played all the time back in the day but it’s been a little bit of a tough sell for the last five years or so. Hence the infrequent visits. But thinking back to Friday night, what I saw was an amazingly energetic audience, a supportive promoter willing to take a chance and a bunch of  Canadians kickin’ out tunes in a beautiful ballroom. What’s not to like about that?

And it was only a hundred paces to a super comfy bed for a glorious sleep. As the relatively new proud papa of a bouncing baby boy sleep is uber appreciated these days. Who would have thought a few years ago that I would need to go out on the road with a rock and roll band to get my beauty rest.

So Saturday arrived and we found ourselves rolling down the I84 alongside the majesty that is the Columbia River on our way to Portland to play the indie-rock Mecca known as the Doug Fir. We arrived in time to take a little stroll across the bridge to check out the Saturday Market. Quite the scene. Man it was hot. Rebecca’s experiment to familiarize herself with 20 minutes of vitamin D left her reaching for a Cosmo and the Aloe Vera as the sun went down. She is currently pretty AND pink. Great Molly Ringwald movie by the way…

Showtime at the Doug Fir~ Such an awesome venue! It is without doubt the twin sister of the Biltmore Cabaret here in East Vancouver. After some backstage jamming and PBR’ing, the Bellboys stepped up to sing their sweet soulful tunes heavily laden with awesome harmonies. Norman was next and they sounded amazing! Then some band I’ve never heard of called the Clumsy Lovers shuffled in from Buffalo and played into the wee hours. So great to see old and new friends enjoying  the music, singing along and generally making merry. All in all, a great night with three groups of musicians offering up their own take on things.

Long live live music!

After loading the van we walked up the stairs in the pouring rain to our rooms at the Jupiter Hotel where we were immediately transported back to 1970’s Los Angeles, left thinking that some Led Zeppelin would have sounded good right about then as we drifted off to sleep cursing the early morning wake-up.

Clumsy Lover Olympic Show

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.

 

Seattle

What can we say that hasn’t already been said about the Tractor Tavern in beautiful Ballard? Everyone that plays there raves about the place. We’ve been playing the Tractor for a decade or so, and every time we do Chris and I can’t help but say to ourselves “Maybe tonight nobody will show up, the show will tank and that will be that.” Not saying it won’t ever happen, but so far it hasn’t.

It’s always good to see Dan the owner and all of his great staff. Ballard is thriving. The bars and restaurants all seem to be full. There is definitely a cool vibe in the neighborhood. And especially inside the Tractor. Even more so when it is so packed full of people you can barely move. And I’m happy to report it was.

Lots of familiar faces and first–timers side by side feeling the love and the energy in the room. And participating in the madness. After all, it wouldn’t be a Clumsy Lover show without some kind of spontaneous thing happening: An impromptu jam, a weird medley, a wacky dancer or the occasional colossal mix-up on stage that we do our best to skillfully steer around… I would guess that these are only several of a dozen reasons why some people keep coming back time after time. Like Juliana and Matt who for some reason know that they have seen the band 65 times.  And why some people don’t.

 

Moscow, Idaho

We’ve been going to the college town of Moscow three times a year or so, for over fifteen years! How is that possible? We’ve played club shows, university events, street fairs, ren fests, weddings…the full gamut. So suffice it to say, we know the town fairly well and look forward to seeing old friends and familiar places.

We left very early Friday morning and made it to the club, John’s Alley, by late afternoon. We set up and had time to grab a bite to eat and hop in the shower to freshen up. The drivers, who didn’t get much naptime during the day were pretty tired by show time, but the energy in the room was off the charts so that was soon mostly forgotten. Drummer Tyler has a group in Portland called the Bellboys so they drove down and played a good set of music with wonderful harmonies to warm up the crowd. We’ll be doing select shows together in the coming months when the timing is right. We started out with a ninety-minute power set, took a break to cool off and rocked out loud and proud until the wee hours of the morning. Expectations exceeded! Got to sleep around three so it was a long, but eventful day.

The great thing about playing two nights in a row is there is no driving to do the next day. So everybody slept in and explored the town a bit in the afternoon. The opener Saturday night was a great outfit, also out of Portland called Hillstomp. A two-piece band that created a wall of sound with slide guitar, manic vocals, and a drummer on an eclectic drum kit pounding out an unrelenting beat.

There was a sizeable crowd gathered by the time we were set to play but there was still plenty of elbowroom. It wasn’t thick and humid like the night before. Generally a Saturday is a bit busier, but this weekend it was the opposite. We went to work rocking as usual but for my money it didn’t take off the way I was hoping it might. Ah expectations…When a humdinger of a Friday night is followed by a slightly smaller crowd, for some reason it can feel disappointing. Quite ridiculous actually when you really think about it. It’s amazing to think even one person in a town might like your music, let alone several hundred, but nevertheless it can by taxing psychologically. Of course we generate a lot of energy from the music itself, and we do still love to play but an insane mob of people can push it over the edge. In a good way.  So I felt a little distracted and overtired from the day before and therefore wasn’t fully able to lose myself in the music. My mind was periodically wandering and the brain felt mushy. Songs I’ve sung perfectly, O.K. almost perfectly, a thousand times seemed new and unfamiliar. Lets chalk it up to the stars not aligning the way  they usually do.

Part of the problem with playing less, is that because we are trying to randomly play every song we’ve ever played as a band, months can go by without playing a particular song. With long, frequent tours it’s easier to get into a rhythm. By day ten, the wheels are turning the way they are supposed to be turning. Music and lyrics begin to enter the unconscious part of the brain and flow out effortlessly most nights. As we’ve mainly just being playing weekends lately for the sake of the newborns, the contrast between home life and road life is quite apparent. From a cozy room with a smiling baby, to a cold mountain highway can be a little jarring to the nervous system. But, we still love doing what we’ve been doing all these years. If it means dad needs to be away now and again, then so be it. Music is our career and travel is a big part of it. Finding the right balance is the tough part.

So is it better to lives one’s life with little expectation and be pleasantly surprised when things go well, or should one always aim high and let the magic of positive thinking and mystical forces combine to ensure every night, or every event in life will naturally be the best it can possibly be? See, this is what happens when I sleep with an unread Deepak Chopra book under my pillow at night…

Harmony Arts Fest, West Vancouver

For a band that sometimes drives 1000 miles to play a single show, a 15 minute drive across the Lions Gate bridge from my apartment in Vancouver is a welcome change. We had played this event 6 or 7 years ago. i remember they had wanted us to play a song live on the 6 o’clock news but for reasons i don’t remember when the camera’s panned towards us all they got was us tuning our instruments and looking awkward..Yeah we’ve certainly had our share of legendary television moments over the years..a microphone stand that fell to crotch level mid-song on WGN in Chicago, sitting on a huge piece of artificial toast pretending to listen to legendary whistling phenom Roger Whittaker on the Big Breakfast show in Vancouver, and generally just feeling tired, sticky and shiny for most of them. Then there were the radio appearances….but back to the festival. A beautiful sunny day right on the water with a swelling crowd helped by the fact that it was a holiday monday in Canada. And the familiar faces! We play so rarely in and around vancouver that our family and friends made a concerted effort to come out and see us play. And did they come out in droves! Everywhere i looked there were Jonats, Rogers and Smiths looking back at me. That would be an interesting name for a law firm. Or an old sonny and cher tune. It’s always great seeing your family out there, but having said that i personally feel a little pressure wanting the show to really go off. But by all accounts the sound was fantastic, the setting was picture perfect and everyone went home happy! And fifteen minutes later we were all cozy and tucked in our beds dreaming about the 1000 mile drive to montana the following weekend!

Missoula, Montana

Sure is a beautiful time of year to be in Montana. But i think that every time I’m in Montana no matter what the season, so i guess it’s a bit of a moot point. Although i will say that winter driving can be treacherous. But it’s still beautiful! We woke up in Helena around the crack of noon and grabbed a sandwich at Montana Wheat Company. it’s a tradition by now i guess. We have quite a few traditions after all these years. Most of them involve eating establishments. And it’s a list about as long as my arm. Famous Daves and Fuddruckers in the west, Chick Filet and the Waffle House in the south (that’s where i take my dates-good value and great lighting)…..and of course the one and only Taco Bell in Ellensburg where we make our final fuel stop before heading back to Vancouver. Made extra special if Flo is our cashier. She’s got sass. She’s got class. And i especially love the way she grimaces every time i ask for a water glass! With our stomachs full, we headed down the highway a couple of hours to Missoula where Molly and the good folks at the festival greeted us with hugs smiles and guess what? More food! It would have been rude to say no of course so we went upstairs to the top floor of a tall building and sampled the fare. There was fruit. There were vegetables. There were nuts. We could clearly see their nuts. There were more sandwiches. And a nice selection of wine, beer, water, juice and absinthe. o.k. they didn’t have absinthe but they did have a lot of thirst quenching beverages as it was about 95 degrees out. After Molly set us up with the grub she made her way to the elevator. As the door was almost closed we heard her shout out through the crack “oh rats!” We assumed she forgot something. Or maybe there were rats on the elevator? Who knows. We never did find out. it’s still a mystery. All i know is that i haven’t heard that expression since the late 70’s when my grandparents would bust it out if they got to the bank a minute after closing. Or when i ran over the garden hose with the lawnmower. Or there was something burning on the barbecue….

Before we knew it it was time to set up and play. We had played the inaugural event last year and had a great time warming up a saturday night crowd for the legendary newgrasser John Cowen. This year they had another great lineup with Great American Taxi and the Emmitt/Nershi project out of Colorado among others. After we took a little extra time to work out some technical problems (see tyler’s future blog-it was the theme of the tour) we were off and running. The set was super fun with a nice big crowd gathered to help us close down the festival. One of the highlights was getting Pari and some others from the audience on stage to dance the Macarena with Rebecca. (Pari is kind of famous in Montana since she shook Barack Obama’s hand in the Republic of Butte earlier in the spring) The Clumsy Lover judges gave round one of the the Great Reba/Pari Dance Off to Rebecca! But we could be biased. And Rebecca did have a vote. There’s no fairness in this world. It’s all who you know my friends. Speaking of which, Pari does know Barack and we know Pari so that means we kind of know Barack by association. (Three Degrees of Barack is a wonderful film by the way. I encourage everyone to check out if they get a chance. Just ask for it at your local video store. do they still have video stores? I think the last time i was in a video store Planes, Trains and Automobiles was a new release) Maybe we should have given first prize to Pari after all. Perhaps Obama might hire us for his 45th birthday party next year or something. News flash: We just did a recount and Pari has emerged the winner! You know where to find us Barack. Just get a hold of Pari. And you too McCain for that matter. You only turn 73 once! Get on that internet and punch ininfo@clumsylovers.com We’ll get back to you. The show finished off on a high note and we were quickly packed up and off into the Montana night. Thanks again to everyone at the festival for all their hard work and hospitality. It’s really fun seeing festivals establish themselves as yearly institutions. We headed right back to the hotel and had a nice band meal along with Chris’s wife Rachel who had driven in for a few days of merriment and to help Sandpoint Star with sales of our merchandise.Thanks once again Star!  After dinner, half of us went to sleep.The rest of us were bored so after talking to bj the bartender he called a few friends and we organized the Great Missoula Parking Lot Party of 2009 featuring our new friends from Kentucky.  The Kentucky Kontingent! We met everybody out at the van, yanked out guitars banjo’s and mandolins and starting making lots of music/racket. This went on for quite a while. Strangers dropped by. Even the police. (And i don’t mean Sting, Stewart and Andy) They usually do eventually. But as long as there is no open alcohol they feel the good Canadian vibes and let us play on. We usually tug at their heartstrings by busting into Amazing Grace or Will the Circle Be Unbroken as they arrive. It works every time and usually draws tears. We had a similar cool time up in Boulder Colorado a few weeks ago with our jamming partners Megan and Shanti from the Tippits!  On this night in Montana, the Canadians outlasted the Kentuckians. Or maybe they just danced more and had expended all their calories. At any rate people started falling asleep so we knew it was time to turn in for the night to get a refreshing hour of shut-eye before our 6 am departure. Thank goodness Chris and Rebecca got their 40 winks and guided their favourite sleeping beauties safely back to Canada!

Montana/Idaho

We had driven to Spokane to break-up the long drive from Vancouver to Big Sky Montana the night before. Had a relaxing night and a pleasant drive through Montana.  Arrived too early as we usually do to sound check so we had a little hotel time. It was snowing on the mountain already if you can believe it. I thought it was still summertime! We headed back down the mountain to visit with our old friends the Young Dubliners out of Los Angeles and local favourites Jawbone Railroad. The Young Dubs had recently had all their gear stolen along with their van in California so they had to scramble to get rented gear for their tour. Jawbone Railroad played a great energetic opening set. We were next and did our thing then the Young Dub’s closed down the party.  It was a lot of fun. Thanks to the organizers and the sound crew.

Thursday we drove to Lewiston Idaho to spend the night with Tyler’s parents. It’s fun to visit and they live 30 minutes away from where our shows were in Moscow Idaho. After some tasty bbq (thanks for the veggie burgers connie) we went into town to check out some music at the brewery. Things winded down early so we went back to the house and sat on the back porch for a while. Then everyone got tired. Because I’m the oldest i get to sleep in the attic. Or maybe no one else can stand the heat. Or the precarious climb up a ladder and across a rooftop while balancing two serving trays with a bowl of fruit on your head. It’s a bit of adventure to get there but once you finally arrive it’s a nice place to chill out. Very quiet and cozy. And the wifi works up there too! I spent a few hours listening to some mixes Greg Reely, who is mixing our album back in Vancouver had sent us. It’s really cool how he can send us songs to listen to and we can get back to him via our producer. (guitars too loud, snare drum’s too quiet etc) But generally he and Carolyn Arends, who is our producer have a pretty good idea what we are looking for in terms of the sonic quality and  the overall vibe so the mixes they are sending us already sound pretty good. He’s mixed four of the thirteen so far so we are looking forward to hearing them all by the time we arrive back in Vancouver in October. So if you were driving down the alley behind eleventh avenue in Lewiston a week ago thursday around 3 a.m and saw a guy in a attic in a rocking chair with headphones on and a smile on his face, that was probably me. Or it could have been the neighbour. Coincidentally he was doing the same thing. What were the odds?

We got up relatively early Friday morning to attend to a bunch of stuff. Van repairs, instrument repairs, key cutting, karate lessons… All the little things that need to be taken care of when one is on the road as much as we are. Then it was over the hill (the way i feel sometimes) and down the road to Moscow to set up for the weekend at John’s Alley. We’ve been playing there since the mid-nineties. It’s fun to see people we’ve known since the early days who still make a point to come out every time we are in town. And there’s always a fresh crop of new faces. That’s the beauty of a college town.  After a quick set-up there was time for a shower and some dinner so that we did. Nothing like a shower to refresh and signal the start of our work day! After a bit of a rough start, the show was really fun as it almost always is. Because we were playing two nights and we generally like to repeat only repeat a handful of songs, we busted out a lot of material that we hadn’t played for a while much to my delight and chagrin. I was lyrically stumped by one song so i had to make up a little gibberish before i got back on track. But people were even singing along to that. That’s how friendly our Idaho crowds are! We played pretty late and because we were playing Saturday too, we left our gear set up and strolled hand in hand across the street to the Royal Motel. New York has the Chelsea. L.A. has the Chateau Marmont.  Moscow has the Royal. After all these years it really does have a familiar feel to it. Not quite like home. More like a cabin that you go to every now and again but homey, and i don’t mean Jason, nonetheless. Saturday everybody took the opportunity to sleep in and do various things. I watched the wonderful movie “Once” and went over to Mikey’s Gyro’s for my twice yearly falafel and tabouli. Later in the afternoon I got a call from Rebecca: “Trev. Are you in the hotel?” she asked. “Yes. Why? Is there another spider in the tub?” I questioned. “No. Just come over.” “O.K.” So i walked over to their room. Rebecca and Tyler greeted me with cherub-like looks on their faces. “Close your eyes and hold out your hands!” I generally hate playing that game. Who knows what people might place in your grasp: A mouse. Dog food. Broken glass. A hornet’s nest. Dirty diapers. Sharp tacks. Crazy glue. A What About Bob dvd….I could go on. Against my better judgement I threw caution to the wind and when I opened my eyes I had in my hands the most adorable little tie dyed beanie cap! Or toque as we say in the frozen north. Thanks guys. That was sweet. We all met later for dinner and I wore it there. But I think I’ll save it along with my sandals, patchouli oil, hackysack, frisbee and hula-hoop till next summer’s festival season. We hit the stage around ten and played all night. Good vibes. Thanks to Jay on sound and Brian and everyone at the Alley for making us feel welcome once again.

Idaho

Writing to you from the back of the van as we roll through Montana headed to Spearfish South Dakota for a show tonight. Listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon to block out the din of the van. I’ve been listening to this album on and off since I was about ten. It still sounds intriguing and mysterious to me all these years later. And there’s not too many albums these days that start with fourteen-seconds of silence! If you are listening to music in 2010 and you hear fourteen-seconds of silence it’s time to recharge the ipod!

We started day one of our month long tour yesterday quite early (or late if you happen to be a night person) in Vancouver. I had the van, that had been in the shop for a little TLC, so i picked up Chris downtown at 4 a.m. Then we drove out to my hometown of Ladner to my parents house to pick up the trailer. They have a nice big driveway to store the rig and it gives me a chance to get in a little visit when we are leaving or returning. Jason had stayed overnight as he has a 90 minute drive from his home in the valley. Rebecca lives near the border so we picked her up next. I greeted her and her sleepy parents at the door. It’s not everyday you get to see Barry in his boxer shorts. That’s rarer than a wolverine sighting in Montana! Or a parking spot in Manhattan!

The border was a breeze. No traffic and a friendly border guard. We stopped in Ferndale to load up all of our cd’s and t-shirts at our storage locker. They had recently put a sensor on the door so the security guy came to check it out fearing a burglary. But happily all he found was a bunch of cheerful Canadians that greeted him with Timbits and a fresh cup of coffee! Seattle traffic was “slower than the biscuit train to molassesville”* as per usual. We had to go right downtown to Capitol Hill to pick up a speaker that Adam from the Crafty Bastard’s had fixed for us. And we were off to the Interstate 90 to get to our afternoon gig in Coeur D’ Alene. That’s a tough town to spell. And I took french in elementary school. That place needs a nickname. Maybe they have one already. Tyler met us there with his dad Rod as he had been spending a few days luxuriating in Lewiston. Massages, drinks by the pool, mini golf…You all know what goes on in Lewiston. I gave Tyler his present. Ten years of Clumsy Lovers live recordings in a five gallon bucket that he is going to put on his hard drive for posterity purposes. We arrived in CDA with plenty of time to haul our gear down the never-ending dock. Did i mention we were playing on a ship that sails around the lake for a private party? It was hot. For September it seemed really hot. And no wind. How hot was it? Even Jason was sweating. He hardly ever sweats. The last time that happened was November of 2002 in Jacksonville Florida!The ship set sail at 4 and returned around 7:30. It was spectacular to be playing on the deck with all that beauty around us. The organizers were super nice and the buffet was awesome. Tyler figures he masticated 6000 calories worth of tasty goodness. After a speedy and somewhat hazardous pack-up down the steep stairs and dock in the dark we were on our way to a hotel in Bozeman. Chris and Tyler swapped out behind the wheel and we arrived at our destination at 2:50 a.m. Coming up on 24 hours since we left. It had been a long day but we’ve had much more extreme scheduling in the past and it had felt like a productive and full day. The rooms only had one bed each so it became  a bit of a Clumsylover sleepover minus the fun, the popcorn, the soft drinks and the When Harry Met Sally videocassette…

*Sojourners quote

Thomas, West Virginia

If you want to spend time in a pretty place head to West Virginia. It’s quite the drive to get to Thomas from Charlottesville. Lots of turns and tight corners and plenty of ups and downs. Kind of like life. Or the stock market. The scenery was spectacular especially with all the fall colours starting to surface. Chris marvelled for at least a minute over the brightness of a grove of red leafy trees that we passed.  I thought i saw a little squirrel crossing the road but it was a blowing leaf. It sure looked like a miniature squirrel from where I was sitting. Oh, the tender moments…

We’ve played several times at the Purple Fiddle. It’s a really quaint place and John and crew always treat us really well. The rooms where we stay are right next door and are really rustic. A band based out of Austin, the Shake ‘Em Ups played a really spirited set to start the evening. Vaughn the acoustic guitar player and singer grew up near Thomas and actually worked at the Purple Fiddle before picking up and moving to Texas a few years ago. The three of them and all their gear travel around in a seasoned Volvo from place to place. Vaughn’s family and some friends were at the show and it was nice meeting them. We played a really fun set. Afterwards, as per tradition, some of us headed up to the only other open place in town to check out the bluegrass jam. Jason sat in for a while and seemed to be enjoying himself. Afterwards we went to Seth’s house near the purple fiddle for a spacey keyboard jam. He has four or five vintage keyboards of all shapes and sizes so we had fun for a while then we called it a night.

Whitesburg, Kentucky

The Summit City Lounge is an up and coming music venue in a beautiful little mountain town down the road from Hazard, Kentucky. No. Bo and Luke Duke were from Hazard, Georgia. I checked into it. I wouldn’t want you to read something inaccurate on the internet. They’ve only been open about a year but it’s coming along nicely. More and more traveling bands are coming through thanks to word of mouth, lots of support from the community radio station, a great sound guy and supportive ownership. It’s a beautiful open plan brick building with a tin ornamental interior roof built in 1925. Kind of like a spruced up Silver Dollar in Butte Montana if you’ve ever been there. Being our first time through on a Tuesday night the crowd was predictably small but wonderfully enthusiastic and helped us out by snapping up our merchandise. I kind of had the feeling that momentum would build quickly due to word of mouth if we were able to get back to play more than once a year. But we live in Vancouver. The venue is in Kentucky. Enough said. As we had to leave early the next morning I passed up the opportunity to go listen to vinyl records with a few friendly locals and headed upstairs to the band house to join the rest of the band in dreamland. Except for Tyler and Jason who stayed up most of the night on the internet…

A Small Town In Virginia

We were asked to play this show acoustically, which we do every now and again. It’s always different not having the drums and bass to hold things down but certain situations like house concerts, t.v and radio appearances and record stores seem to work quite well with just the three of us. It also makes for a very easy setup. Just pull out the guitar, fiddle and banjo and start playing! It was a concert/birthday party for Cheryl’s husband so they had a great number of friends and family out. The night had started out a little weird as the address that we were given was not actually where the party was. It was a country style house with no sign of life except for the 2 dogs and the eight or nine cats. And it was pitch dark. And trust me backing up the trailer down the bumpy windy lane was a bit of a challenge. We were worried someone was going to come out of the house with a shotgun. It was really rural. We soon determined that we were at the wrong place but she wasn’t answering her cell phone for some reason. It turns out it was in her husband’s (the birthday boys) truck. So he eventually answered her phone and gave us the address of the party  And we were off! Luckily it was just down the road and with our acoustic trio it only took us a few minutes to get ready. Everyone we met was super nice and there was lots of food and even a batch of “clumsy lover sangria” which I thought was a nice touch! We played two sets and kept it heavy on the bluegrass fast paced side of things. And as is often the case at these types of shows, everyone wanted to take home a c.d. or two with them. And I saw another thing I hadn’t seen before. Moonshine! Somebody had brought it in from North Carolina. They had flavoured it with fruit. Everyone was preaching moderation so I only had a sip. It was quite smooth. But looking around me as we were finishing up the second set, those that were preaching moderation seemed to be gulping it down! But it got people dancing and the night finished up in a merry fashion!

A Day Off In Decatur Georgia

Nothing like a day off to pretty much do nothing. No mailing list to put together atKinko’s. No errands to run. No van repairs to take care of. No choreography rehearsals. O.K. We’ve yet to have one of those but we may one day. You never know. So what did we do? This is what I observed: Chris went for a jog and a movie. Rebecca took a train to the little five points in downtown Atlanta to meet up with the Smart Brothers. (And met an attractive man by the name of Hamilton while she was waiting for them in a park by the way.) You go Rebecca! I won’t tell frannybear. Or franberry either for that matter. My favourite smoothy still after all these years….(Rebecca’s parents are Fran and Barry by the way. I was speaking in code. They took the new promo photo’s on the website at Stanley Park in Vancouver by the way. Thanks guys!)  Tyler went out for lunch at the legendary Varsity with a talented singer songwriter named Elli Perry who we had met at the show the night before. He even brought back the paper hat to prove it. And Jason spent at least fourteen hours participating in a theological discussion forum on the internet. Myself? I considered a bunch of things but ended up sleeping late. Catching up on emails. Watching the stock market collapse on CNN. Headquartered in Atlanta by the way. Stuff like that. Later in the afternoon I met up with Rebecca and we went to my favourite place in Decatur where they serve a great bowl of vegetarian chile. But my favourite sassy waitress wasn’t there. I don’t even know her name but she is one of the few familiar faces I recognize in the town so I was somewhat disappointed:( Later on we met up with Jay and Lou of the Smart Brothers for a couple of brews at this place that seems to have hundreds and hundreds of different types of beer. I ordered some kind of pale ale. It was good. But I couldn’t remember which kind it was when I ordered a second as there were dozens to choose from. The waitress sniffed it and brought me a Storm IPA. I’ve never had a waitress sniff my beer before!

Weston, Missouri

Weston is a quaint town close to Kansas City. We’ve played in the area quite a few times over the years including here at the festival four years ago. There were lots of familiar faces and well wishers and dozens of people sporting our t-shirts so that was nice to see. We were the headliner on the outdoor stage on the Friday night so that was really fun. We played after a group from New York City called the Mickey Finns. They were really entertaining and their familiar Irish sound fit right in.  There were lots of great musicians and bands on the bill. One of the nice things about playing a festival is that you are generally in town for a few days so you get a chance to settle in. And another perk is the magic wristband they give you that entitles band members to free everything! Imagine if real life was like that. What a wonderful world it would be!

On Saturday we played two shows. An early evening set that went well on the main stage, then a late night performance at a really historic looking pub called O’Malley’s that they have on the festival site. It’s old and solid looking and at the very bottom down a long passageway is the pub. It’s everything you would expect it to be. Cozy, crowded, humid and packed full of people looking to go nuts! I felt really hot and worn out but everyone around me appeared to be having a good time. Chris’s wife Rachel put a cool video montage of the weekend on our Facebook page if anyone wants to check it out. The pack-up was rushed and chaotic so as a result I left a capo and a power adapter behind. I hate it when that happens. It means I have to go to one of the places I dread going to the most: The music store. I’ve spent enough time and money in music stores to last a lifetime. Or three. Sometimes you come across friendly staff but most of the time they are either older and disgruntled or young and borderline useless. I guess it was exciting to go when I was a teenager to try out all the guitars and gadgets. And I still like the quiet mom and pop shops but the big stores are kind of like getting lost in a Wal-Mart. But they do have everything you need under one roof and that’s why I will continue to go back almost every time I lose something. Over the years I’ve gone from being the wide-eyed teenager to the guy they think is coming in to by a clarinet for their kid. Oh well. Jason and Tyler stayed behind to socialize and enjoy more “free” and the rest of us headed back to the hotel to enjoy “sleep”. I did get a call from an Irish musician at 2 a.m. to invite me to a party at the hotel. That can only mean the Young Dubliners from Los Angeles are in town! Tyler ended up going and representin’ and having a good time with the guys. Thank you everyone at the festival for treating us so well!

Decatur, Georgia

Eddie’s Attic has been a fixture in the Atlanta music scene since 1991 if I’m not mistaken. We’ve been there several times before. It’s a cozy room up a long set of stairs with a listening room in the front and a bar and patio in the back. Eddie’s is similar to a lot of rooms that we play in the South and northeast in that the shows are seated. The energy is always good but it’s quite a contrast to a bar full of revellers in Missoula Montana or John’s Alley in Moscow Idaho or a festival in Haines Alaska. It’s a different kind of show. The long list of performers that have played Eddie’s over the years is quite impressive to say the least (John Mayer, Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile, The Black Crowes and hundreds more… ) so we are always happy to be asked back. Shalom is the sound guy there. He’s one of my favourites. Warm hearted with a real appreciation for music. And the portobello sandwich with potato salad. I took his recommendation later and he was right. It was good.

It was a three band night night starting off with The Smart Brothers out of San Diego. Their music is a little hard to describe but I would say it had a bit of a 1940s lonesome back-porch sound with a modern sensibility. Old Crow Medicine Show meets The Avett Brothers who then meet up with Rufus Wainwright at Woody Guthrie’s house perhaps? They dress in a very dapper fashion and play banjos and guitars and keep the rhythm by banging an old suitcase with a kick drum pedal. They had a few technical problems but played through it and entertained the crowd and sold a lot of c.d.’s afterwards. We were up next and played for an hour. It was a fun set. It was one of those places where the audience sits so close to the band that I know I’m sweating in their beer. But my sweat probably has traces of beer in it anyway so it probably all balances out in the end. We turned the stage over to a well known Atlanta musician Matthew. (whose last name is escaping me) He did a cool thing by starting out sitting behind the drums and singing a cappella while at the same time playing the drums with his hands before switching to guitar for the rest of the set. After the show everybody gathered by the merchandise and we finished off a good night by meeting a lot of nice people from Atlanta and other friends that we have met in other places that had come to the show. The icing on the cake was that we got to haul all our gear back down the stairs! What goes up must come down I guess.

Damn you singer-songwriters who prance in and out with your acoustic guitars and a box of c.d.’s. Packed up in a minute or less. Thanks so much to Bob and Eddie and my favourite forty-eight year old Shalom. Shalom.

Charlottesville, Virginia

Charlottesville is a really historic town with a lot of statues. We saw General Lee when we were driving in. The place where we perform is in a pedestrian area of the city with lots of cafe’s and pubs. Dave Matthew’s apparently lived there so everyone you meet wants to tell you their connection to him. It’s another one of those long load-ins. We need to block cars and walk everything down a lane and into the Gravity Lounge. We had one guy blocked in who wanted to leave but instead of yelling at us he helped us carry an armload of gear. It’s funny how a positive experience like that can form such a favourable impression of a town when one looks back. We had a little time before soundcheck so i went for a little walk in the rain. One guy came up to me and told me i looked like Michael Bolton and started shaking my hand. We all have our celebrity twins but I’m not sure that Michael Bolton is mine. I thought he might have wanted money but he just seemed to want to talk. He told me he was “this close” from a career in the National Football League and showed me a scar on his knee from an apparent football injury. And that a family in Charlottesville had taken him under their wing and helped get him out of the “ghetto” and for that he will forever be grateful. He now works at the hospital. He was wearing a hospital uniform and an I.D. tag. Although i guess he could have been an escaped patient. The last thing he showed me was a crumpled up picture of a woman with the date 1996 on it. He said that she was coming in to see him tonight from Memphis. Who knows? It all sounded plausible to me. Charlottesville just seems like a friendly town. People on the street look up and smile and say hi. Not everyone, but more than other places I’ve been. The show was at seven o’clock. There was only a handful of people there to start but throughout the set it slowly started to develop into a pretty healthy crowd. Our apologies to those who thought show time was later. The reason we played so early is that there was another show set to start at ten. A lot of places that we play like to have two separate shows a night to maximize the utility of their venue. We packed up and Tyler and I stayed behind to watch the next band and hang out with Mike from the band Eddie From Ohio. We had played with them in Florida in 2004.  The Little Ones from Los Angeles are a young band who seem to be on the way up. It was a free show sponsored by a radio station. People showed up in droves. A good looking young crowd. They seemed to like the music but nobody really went wild for it. It was more of a sedate indie rock style show even though the music was pretty rockin’. To me they sounded a little too much like Death Cab for Cutie. But i like Death Cab for Cutie so we stuck around for the whole show. The mix was perfect and the band sounded great. Maybe you’ll see them on Conan O’Brian one day.  Mike lives close by so we stayed at his place. We hung out and watched Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report and after more than a few wet goodnight licks from his Rhodesian Ridgeback we called it a night.

Colorado

Weston Missouri to Boulder Colorado wouldn’t be very far if there wasn’t a state called Kansas in between them. So it made for kind of a long day. It seems like we often run into storms when we drive through Kansas and Sunday was no exception. At one point during the storm we stopped at a rest area and debated the best approach to get in and out without getting soaked. One of my fellow band mates decided to go barefoot to keep his/hers  shoes dry. I wish I had a camera. It was a sight to behold. I wasn’t sure what was more unsanitary, the feet or the bathroom floor. I’d call it a tie.

About a day after we left Weston we arrived at our home for the next 4 nights. The stylish Millennium hotel in Boulder Colorado! We’ve stayed there a few times over the years and actually played out back this summer at their weekly community concert series. It’s a great place to stay. Fitness room, swimming pool, a trail along the river…and close to the Mac dealer so Chris was able to walk to pick up the new addition to our Mac family. The mighty Macbook Pro. Like a lot of bands we come across on the road we all travel with Macs. They are a lifesaver for so many reasons but especially for communicating with friends and family. And for writing road diaries on long drives through Wyoming. Did I tell you we are currently driving through Wyoming on our way home?

Our next three shows were all within easy driving distance of Boulder so we all had plenty of time in the daytime to do whatever we wanted before we would meet and go to the show. Monday was the Southern Sun in Boulder. It’s a brewery that has music every week. We’ve been there many times before and it’s always a good time. We had some old friends show up so that was nice too. In fact our buddy Jim told us that Rebecca’s version of the Tennessee Waltz was the best he had ever heard. It’s such a pretty melody. I woke up humming it last week.

Tuesday was a place we’d never been before, The Swing Station in Laporte. It’s a town near Ft.Collins. Really cool atmosphere. It reminded me of Texas style roadhouse. It’s run by a musician named Brad who plays there every Wednesday with the bartender Erin in a band called The Honkingtonks. It was a really fun and lively crowd and everybody was super nice and happy that we had come to their little town. Driving home we spotted something rare out west, a Waffle House. So we stopped in and had a nice healthy salad:)

Wednesday was an easy drive down to Denver to play at Dulcinea’s Golden Monkey on Colfax Avenue. Jay the promoter has always been really good to us and we’ve played several of his establishments over the years. Quixote’s, Cervantes…. etc We don’t have much going on in Denver but he continues to champion our cause. His bars are institutions in the city. They all have kind of a Grateful Dead theme to them with the paintings and pictures on the walls and the music on the jukebox. The staff is friendly and Matt did a great job on the sound. We played fairly late to a really appreciative audience of old and new friends. Jason made a game-time decision to stay with a friend and take a bus to meet us in Montana next week! How crazy is that? That’s something I would have done in the late 90’s! Time to pass the torch I guess…I miss the little guy. It’s weird not seeing the back of his head from where I sit in the back of the van….

Bellingham/Spokane

We’ve been playing the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham for quite a while now and have had some really awesome nights there over the years. It’s a really great room for music. Kind of a mini “house of blues” with a great stage and sound system. It was an incredibly rainy night, more like a monsoon but a great crowd showed up for the show including Rebecca’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Smith! They like to keep a watchful eye on her now that she is 21 and can legally take tequila shots at the bar. The show was really fun once we dusted the cobwebs off our instruments. We had taken most of November off to hang out with our families and friends and catch up on our Vancouver lives so it took a few songs to get back into the flow. But then we were off and running! We played a wide variety of tunes from today and yesteryear and played several requests as we usually like to do. Downstairs in the dressing room Rebecca got a picture taken beside the autograph of her current musical obsession, The Clintons! Another fun night in Bellingham!

Saturday morning we got up early to drive to Spokane for our show at the Knitting Factory. It’s a really great concert hall that we’ve been playing for the last 5 years or so. Before that we must have played a dozen different clubs. But we like it here the best. It’s a really top-notch place. Incredible light show and sound system and they even have guys hired to help you load your gear in and out! We did a quick sound check then we had quite a few hours to kill so we just kind of lounged around in the band area watching Laurence Welk while the younger generation later got wrapped up in video games. The show was great fun. Not a huge crowd (300 or so?), the place holds over a thousand after all, but they closed off the balcony so everyone gathered on the main floor so it felt like a rock show! It was an all ages event so there were lots of families and kids mingling with college students and even a few senior citizens all having a jolly old time. We played 2 sets of clumsy classics including a couple of instrumentals that Rebecca and Jason play together. There are some pictures up on our MySpace page if you want the photo evidence. After the show we met the audience and signed quite a few things for the kids. All in all a splendid time in Spokane!

Seattle

Ah…the Tractor Tavern. What can be said about this very cool venue in the heart of Ballard that hasn’t been said before? No Depression magazine says “ it’s the central gathering place for Seattle’s bubbling-under alternative-country scene, as well as a serviceable venue for all manner of roots, folk and traditional musical styles, from acoustic singer-songwriters to rockabilly rave-ups to Cajun-flavored zydeco to the traditional Irish music.”  Well said No Depression and with you I concur! The list of incredible artists that have played there is about as long as Yao Ming’s arm.

I guess we’ve been playing the Tractor for ten years already. Can it really be that long? I think Clinton was in office when we started doing shows there. Or Jean Chrétien if you prefer Canadian references. Or Tony Blair if you prefer British references or…..When we started playing in Seattle we would play one of two Irish pubs: Conor Byrne’s and The Owl and Thistle. Great times and great people but both of those places got a little small so we moved over to the Tractor and have been playing there ever since. Dan and all the staff there are great people so it feels good to check in with everybody once or twice a year. As per tradition we had dinner at Hattie’s Hat and a drink at the Lock and Keel before heading over to the club. It was nice to have Tyler’s mom Connie along and Chris’s wife Rachel who was doing a lot of filming.

The opening band was called the Dexter Street Stompers. Nice guys. Cool tunes. Warmed up the crowd nicely. We hit the stage a little after ten and played quite late. The energy in the audience was really up and elbowroom was at a minimum as the show was sold out. It’s always nice to see that piece of paper taped to the front door: “Sold out” Isn’t that what Bon Jovi did by putting out a country album last year? Only kidding Bon Jovi fans. I bought two copies. One for the car and one to give away to a needy Bon Jovi fan on craigslist.  And I don’t even have a stereo in my car! Talk about devotion. The show seemed to fly by really quickly. It was sweaty and loud and made me wish that every night was a Saturday night. The band was solid and reckless in a good way for the most part. There were lots of old friends in the audience and new people too, which is always a good sign. There was a lot of word of mouth promotion from a few of the people I talked to. Nothing like free advertising! So the night came to a close and we all got in the van and drove back to Vancouver just in time for breakfast. Now we have a few weeks off through the holidays before some heavy touring starts in January to promote our new album “Make Yourself Known”.

Utah

Here we are again driving in the van a couple of days into another cross-country tour. There’s the savory aroma of fresh baked cookies wafting through the van. Actually it smells at this moment like half-eaten subway sandwiches, rotting fruit and the stale air of four sleeping beauties. Maybe one day scratch and sniff will be available on the internet so everyone in cyberspace can enjoy this moment. Last week we were in the Vancouver area playing several St. Patrick’s day shows at Ceili’s downtown, The Duke of Dublin in Abbotsford (hadn’t been to that town since the Air Show in 79. It’s grown. And so have I guess…) and the big day itself was at The Lamplighter in historic Gastown. The shows were generally pretty fun, saw lots of family and friends (including a never before met 3rd cousin)  and went home to our own pillows all week! (except for the Super 8 in Abbotsford. But it was O.K. as we were spoiled by the freshly plumped pillows, turned sheets and complimentary champagne…Actually a peewee hockey team staying across from us was having fun knocking on doors, flipping do not disturb signs over and playing ball hockey in the hallway at 7 a.m….boys will be boys. The tradition continues…)

We played a couple of shows up in Park City and a club show in Salt Lake this weekend. It was a great couple of days although Harry O’s was a little slow on Thursday. I think I scared a few people off by singing a little flat on the radio earlier on in the afternoon:) Actually it was kind of fun. We played a new song “Danielle” for the first time with Rebecca on violin and Tyler on snare drum.

The Urban Lounge in S.L.C. rocked on Friday. We even had a chance to steal away before the show to do something truly rock & roll. We went to the Home Depot to replace a trailer lock and get some keys cut. I must say I was highly impressed with the service. The guy looked a little bit like a cross between a thinner Kris Kringle and Kenny Rogers and he was extremely helpful.

Salt Lake City has always been a cool town for us. I guess it’s been ten years or more already from our start at the legendary Zephyr Club. Since it closed we’ve played quite a few different places but the Urban Lounge seems to suit us well. I guess one of my easiest recalled memories in this city was having a Barenaked Lady join us onstage for a few tunes the evening we later crashed the van trying to drive through the night to Phoenix. Aw memories…

Saturday we got up at the crack of noon and played an outdoor show in Park City. We were at the same venue almost a year ago to the day with Rusted Root. A nice bunch of people from what I could tell. That was the same day we were given a case lot (134?) of granola bars by the promoter Toby that we munched on in the van for a month or two after.  Last year it was freezing cold but this time the weather was unseasonably warm. A really nice all ages crowd showed up to enjoy the tunes. Lots of familiar faces including a couple of guys from a band we did a few shows with from Orlando and another promoter we know named Casey who brought his wife and baby Ty down to the concert.

We had a few hours to kill after that so we went back to the most awesomest condo to do what people like to do when they have precious downtime. It’s been our home away from home the past three days. It’s been kind of like The Waltons. Goodnight Rebecca! Goodnight Jason! Goodnight Chris! Goodnight Barack!(not sure why he was in the top bunk) It was three magical days of hearty breakfasts, cowboy coffee, and reruns of Stacy and Clinton transforming lives in their own charming way on What Not To Wear.

After a refreshing jet bath (not with the band unfortunately) it was time to head down to the show at The Star Bar on Main Street in Park City. Perfect room for us. Not too big. Not too small. Just right. Elli Perry, a singer/songwriter friend of ours we met in Atlanta is along with us for the next three weeks. She’ll be opening up some of the shows and manning (womaning?) our merchandise table for us. So stop by, pick up a CD or a T-shirt and ask her about growing up in rural Georgia. She’ll love you for it! Elli played a nice set of tunes with Lewiston Idaho’s own Tyler Thompson helping out on guitar, drums, bass, bagpipes and unicycle. We hit the stage stoked and ready to rock. Really fun crowd and we blasted through two hours of music in no time. A weekend in Utah was a great way to start the tour. Only the tiny state of Wyoming to get through today and we’ll be setting up to play the Swing Station tonight in Colorado on our way down to the deep South!

Colorado

Well, we made it to Colorado in pretty good time with my personal journey made more pleasant as I had Brett and Jemaine from “Flight of the Conchords” to keep me company. The great thing about long travel days is having the time to catch up on reading, sleeping, listening to music, watching DVD’s etc, provided you aren’t driving of course:) Over the years most of us have enjoyed watching seasons at a time of CSI, The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Wire etc…Jason’s still old school as he still passes his time in the back of the van listening to Flatt and Scruggs and reading the Old Testament.

Our destination was Laporte, Colorado to play a show at a roadhouse called the Swing Station. The folks that run the place are super passionate about music and bring in all kinds of great bands. Wayne the Train Hancock, The Derailers, Corb Lund etc…It reminds me of some of the places we’ve played in Texas over the years. It was a Sunday night, so we had a small but enthusiastic group of locals show up to enjoy the show. There were a couple of guys that must have spent their day off drinking a few too many cans of Coors that were a little obnoxious. Jumping on stage to play the piano, knocking over pool cues etc…but Rebecca gave them the stink eye and that put a stop to their unruly behaviour. Don’t mess with Texas. Or Reba! We played a short set and made our way down the road to our hotel in Denver tempted ever so slightly by the Waffle House not once but twice. They don’t have too many out West. I like the fact they have old-fashioned jukeboxes. We went to one in Tennessee and some yahoo, maybe it was me, put on “Rocky Top” as we were leaving to the groans of the waitresses. Twenty-five cents well spent!

We arrived at the airport Doubletree in Denver just in time for fresh complimentary cookies. I’m not sure if they give them to everyone who checks in but they always come through for us. Maybe it’s our charming Canadian demeanor. They are tasty, but calorically they are the equivalent of a half-hour on the treadmill. But you only live once right?

It’s great to be in the same hotel for 2 days. When you wake up you essentially have a day to yourself before the evening show. I’m sure some people in the band took long showers, had a Greek salad at Panera bread and burned off a couple of cookies watching TMZ/Oprah on the treadmill. We all met up at 7 and headed down to Quixote’s for the show. Quixote’s is attached to Cervante’s Ballroom in the 5 points(?) area of Denver and is one of five music venues that the promoter Jay and his brother operate. There is a decidedly Grateful Dead/Jam Band vibe there for sure. It’s kind of like stepping back in time. Concert posters, photos and live Grateful Dead concerts playing most of the time there isn’t a band on stage. The first band was from Brooklyn. I didn’t catch their name but they were hard to ignore as they had a tall thin man from Argentina in super tight short shorts and knee high seventies sports socks parading around. It was kind of like watching the 1978 Wimbledon quarterfinals. The second band was more pleasing to the eye. Junior League from D.C. featured some cool fiddling and an attractive woman named Lissy in a yellow dress playing banjo and singing. We finally took the stage close to midnight and played some music. Some new. Some old. The onstage sound was a little weird as the monitors weren’t working properly but judging by the mix for the first two bands and the smiles on the faces of the dancers, everything coming out of the main speakers was hunky dory. Once again, a small but appreciative crowd. It was a Monday night after all, but Denver continues to be a tough nut to crack. It’s kind of stayed the same for us the last five years or so. We did have some crowded weekend gigs back in 2002  or so including playing a show at the old Quixote’s on Broadway with Stir Fried featuring the legendary fiddler Vassar Clemens. But we remain hopeful that new music and fun shows will generate word of mouth for next time through not just in Denver but everywhere really. Here’s to a fun night of music  featuring bands from Brooklyn, D.C. and Vancouver!

St. Louis/Kansas City

Kansas City is a cool town we’ve been to quite a few times over the years, but we’ve never played at a place called the Trouser Mouse. Brad the friendly owner will tell you how they came up with the name. I didn’t fully understand his explanation but it apparently came from an expression I’ve never heard of involving having a mouse in your pocket that does helpful things that you don’t want any thanks for. Aren’t you glad I cleared that up for you? Google it if you need more info.

We set up and had a little time to visit with some friends that came in from Wichita, Weston and other places. Elli and Tyler played their customary opening set and we played until midnight or so emphasizing tunes from the new album. Ended up selling quite a few too at the end of the night so that helps put a little gas in the tank. A lot of these venues out here in the Midwest/South are a tad smoky though if I do say so myself. At the end of the night we often smell like we’ve been trapped in a Volkswagen Beetle with George Burns and a couple of supermodels. Actually that would be fun too…Sometimes smoky clothes are the price you pay for putting on a rock and roll show I guess. Good times at the Trouser Mouse. Thanks to everybody there for being so nice!

The next day we drove a few hours to St. Louis. The travel times this week have been relatively short compared to what we are used to. Short enough to not have cabin fever fully set in. And what are we doing right now to pass the time? Looking around I see that Tyler is driving and listening to Death Cab For Cutie on the satellite radio. Rebecca is listening to Jon and Vangelis on her brick-sized IPod, but for some unknown reason she would rather I write that she was previously listening to Kelly Clarkson. Oh Reba…Chris is sporting his Canuck’s shirt and watching season 5 of The Wire, and Jason is reading a page-turner entitled Light From The Christian East. I’m typing and just noticed that the car in front of us made a beeline to the shoulder on Highway 44 as their right front tire just fell right off. Lots of smoke but everybody’s o.k. We’ve seen a lot of weirdness on the highways over the years.

The past few times in St. Louis we’ve played Off Broadway, but this time for a change of scenery we are playing The Halo Bar that is affiliated with another place called The Duck Room where we have also played a few times. Chuck Berry is somehow involved and occasionally plays there. Still rockin’ in his eighties! The Halo Bar is attached to an awesome theatre called The Pageant. Tonight Split Lip Rayfield was opening up for a jam band called Railroad Earth. The idea was we would play immediately after they hit their last note so some of their crowd would hopefully filter in to mesh with our crowd. But because we didn’t need to play until 11:30, and the Vancouver Canucks by some miracle coincidence happened to be in town to play the St. Louis Blues, guess where we went? That’s right. A Clumsy Lover fieldtrip to the Scottrade Centre to watch the game! We were able to snag super cheap tickets online. It was a great atmosphere. The two hottest teams in the league and St.Louis fighting for their playoff lives. Vancouver started strong controlling the play but were hampered by questionable penalties(IMAO) that gave St. Louis the momentum.  Vancouver never fully recovered from the resulting onslaught and they ended up losing 4-2. There were some beautiful goals. And some beautiful saves. It was quite a game. And man that crowd was loud. Especially the two shrieking girls behind us who ended up spilling their beer on Elli when St. Louis scored their second goal and everyone leapt to their feet to cheer.

We hustled to the subway after the game and made it back to the club by eleven. Checked out a little Railroad Earth in the theatre. We had seen them before at a little place called the Neurolux in Boise but judging by the shiny red bus out back and the seven or eight hundred people in attendance things are going well for them out here in the middle part of the country. It was a really good festival-like atmosphere. They are phenomenal musicians. As their last notes rang out, we fired up the Clumsy Lover engine and rocked The Halo Bar. Some of our crowd didn’t get the memo that we weren’t starting until 11:30 and arrived early so their anticipation was building for three or four hours. But with the crowd ambling in from the theatre it made for a full room and an opportunity for us to play to some new ears too. Good vibes from the staff and crew and kind words from the audience made for a fun evening and a long day eventually came to a close in a comfy bed at the Airport Marriot in St. Louis Missouri.

Branson, Missouri

Our second time back to Branson, Missouri and it seems we brought the Vancouver rain with us. Maybe it will still be raining when we get to Lexington tomorrow and we can all sing along to Elvis’s Kentucky Rain. When Rebecca’s mom heard the Clumsy Lover’s were playing Branson the news was met with the same level of excitement an announcement that we were playing Carnegie Hall would have garnered! There are a lot of notable entertainers that call Branson their home. Like The Presley Family (no relation to Elvis) , The Parton Family (no relation to Dolly) and a Billy Ray Cyrus cover band. O.K. I made the last two up but there are a lot of acts I’ve never heard of interspersed with household names like The Osmond’s and Andy Williams. You know you are getting close to Branson when you start to see the Yakov Smirnoff signs every mile or so. Now he’s the real deal. After all who can say ”What a country!” without picturing his cherub-like face?Waxy O Shea’s is an Irish bar with a nice big stage for the bands to perform. Often times playing an Irish pub is like trying to put on a rock show in the back seat of a Yugo. But tonight we would have the space to stretch out and spin our instruments around a la’ Steve Vai. Nights like tonight we generally do our own sound and we can be unloaded and have the entire P.A. system ready to go in about twenty minutes if we hustle. More time for us to luxuriate and take in the atmosphere. They treat us really well here with food, drinks and accommodation and they do a lot to make the musicians feel welcome. Especially Matt who organizes the music there who calloused his fingers texting all his friends to come down! There was a good energy in the room. Lots of dancing and stomping and whooping and hollering. And the audience was pretty excitable too:) One nice thing about having been around so long is we often see people we haven’t seen for years. I talked to a guy that hadn’t seen us since After the Flood came out in 2004 and here we are in 2009. Five years and two new albums for us and a couple of children in his case. He knew a lot about cigars too. You never know where the conversations going to lead. The point is, we are always happy to see repeat customers. There’s many that have seen the band fifty times. They should receive a commemorative plaque, or at the very least a certificate. People love being certified. I still have my bachelor’s certificate of square dancing that I was proud to be presented with in the spring of 1979. All in all a really swell time and they sent us off into the night with enough bread pudding to feed the Canadian Navy.”

Lexington, Kentucky

Sunday was a pretty long drive from Missouri to Kentucky. Even though it was a day off we left pretty early so we could get to Lexington to have an evening to do something fun. Our friend Lynette left us to drive back to Denver. She had spent her spring break coming to all of our shows for a week or so. It was a lot of driving for her but she had a good time and we’ll see her next time we go to Colorado. I like seeing roadtrippers along the way. It’s nice having an entourage or a posse along when we show up at the gig.  Makes us feel like important rappers:) Actually the only time I wrap is at Christmas.

Booking our hotels through Priceline/Orbitz like sites we never really know where we might end up, but for a good price we found ourselves at a really nice Hilton. And I don’t mean Paris. Right next to a movie theatre! There were lots of choices but we ended up going to Last Chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman. I think we all agreed is was a $1:50 well spent and a relaxing way to spend a Sunday evening.

Monday night we were back at a club called The Dame. It’s a great big rock room and host’s all kinds of popular bands from The Drive By Truckers to Reverend Horton Heat. There was an energetic young group playing first called the Tense Kids. They had an interesting concept approach to their music. Very eclectic. We got up and played for an hour starting with Walk in the Light of Your Fire and ending with a barnburnin’ Way Down the Old Plank Road. We figured out later we haven’t been there for almost four years! It feels like it’s been about two weeks. Judging by the turnout on a cold night in Kentucky, it’ll likely be another four until we are back in Lexington. At least. But you never know. If we bump into David Letterman in Montana and he features us on Late Night and Tyler starts dating Paris Hilton and Elvis Costello holds up our album on Rolling Stone…we could soon be back in Lexington playing to a sold out crowd!

Decatur, Georgia

Here we are back at Eddie’s Attic! It’s a jewel of a place in the pleasant Decatur area of the city. It’s a bit of a strenuous load in up a couple of sets of steep stairs but our ten arms and legs accomplished the mission in no time. It’s a really good vibe at Eddie’s. Everybody there truly loves music and they do a lot to support up and comers as well as having a nightly lineup of seasoned musicians. Dylan Sneed was up first. Great singer songwriter from Texas.  Rebecca got onstage and played a beautiful fiddle part during one of his songs. Next was a charming Minneapolis songwriter, Ellis. Minnesota churns out a lot of one named musicians. Prince, Ellis…O.K. at least two. We played a spirited set. Lots of new tunes. Took some requests. As per usual, there was someone from Idaho in the audience. And a guy and a girl were there that had heard us on Pandora.com and decided to come down and check us out live. Pandora’s a cool site to discover new bands but it’s unfortunately not available in Canada. Good crowd. Good vibe. Good night!

Hickory, North Carolina

Hickory is a quaint little town not too far from Charlotte. Drips Coffee has a cool vibe with art on the walls and music in the evening. Kind of like an Ashland Coffee and Tea in Ashland Virginia, or Jammin’ Java in Vienna Virginia or The Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville Virginia…

Jimmy the promoter was the chief cook and bottle washer this evening. He helped us load in, did our sound, collected money at the door and even brought us home-cooked chickpea curry with basmati rice! Something tells me he’s spent a little time on the road. Perhaps with a great outfit known as The Carolina Chocolate Drops? The show flew by as usual and we met some really charming people afterwards. Our former merch person Shay, daughter of Stan Wilson, was there too looking stylish and offering up Southern hugs.

After the show we packed up fairly quickly as we had a three-hour drive to Knoxville. Clint, the owner of the place has a band called The Flat Tires and gave me his CD on our way out the door. I’m listening to it right now.  It kind of reminds me of a cross between Hank 111 and The Georgia Satellites with a little Social Distortion thrown in for good measure. Hopefully coming soon to a town near you!

Newport, Kentucky

Right across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio is a neat little town called Newport.  Our show tonight is in a ballroom attached to an amazing old mansion that was built in 1808. Abe Lincoln apparently stayed there at one time along with the inventor of the Tommy gun and other historical figures. The ballroom downstairs reminds me of the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland. Charming and rustic.  Upstairs was a smaller room with a swing band playing, and up another flight of stairs there were four more bands! Very cool idea. I wish Vancouver had a place like this. That’s where I would be spending my entertainment dollar.

A lot of days out here on the road have a theme. Today’s was the trashy “Girls Gone Wild” video collection. In the morning we were revisiting the scene in Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry disguises his voice on the phone when he orders the videocassette. Later we briefly parked in front of a retail bbq place called Grills Gone Wild, and when we got to the venue we found out the opening band was called Earls Gone Wild! Maybe it’s a sign we need to order the series. Who knows, maybe someone in the van already has:)

After sound check we grabbed a bite to eat then headed back to watch Elli Perry and the aforementioned Earls Gone Wild. A nice crowd had begun to gather and we had quite a few road trippers show up from different places including Steve and Heather all the way from Drew Carey’s hometown: Cleveland! Elli and Tyler played great and sold a whack of her new CD. And EGW added their traditional bluegrass to the night and sounded terrific. Next up: Us! We were happy to have a fairly large festive crowd primed and waiting for us to take the stage. And we were off! It seemed like everyone was firing on all cylinders musically, we were loose but not too loose and the crowd even seemed to like our attempt at witty Canadian banter. One of the highlights of the set was a new tune Devil May Care that sounded really anthemic. The energy was good throughout the set and we got a standing ovation. Maybe they were just tired of sitting all night ! Thanks to everyone at the Southgate and most of all the crowd for being so kind. Now it’s a drive across Tennessee to get to Little Rock Arkansas tonight…

Texas

It’s great to be back in Texas. We drove in a different way this time via Arkansas and were happy to pass through Hope (the birthplace of Bill Clinton) before fueling up alongside the highway in Texarcana. And speaking of hope, some of us were hoping  that Bill might be outside waving in his front yard but alas, we were denied.

I was expecting the Texas/Arkansas border to be somewhat magical as I had been listening to REM’s “Texarcana” in anticipation the day before:

40, 000 stars in the evening

Look at them fall from the sky

40, 000 reasons for living

40, 000 tears in your eye

Perhaps it’s different at night. It’s hard to see those 40, 000 stars in the daytime.  I guess that only happens at the Junos.

They did have friendly clerks at the post office so we were able to send off some mail order and a couple of Elvis postcards picked up at a gas station in Memphis.

Normally there is a big “Welcome to Texas “ sign when you cross into Texas. (Never seen one crossing into Iowa. That would be an obvious prank. Maybe I’ll tweet Ashton Kutcher with the suggestion) By the way, I want to be the first to tell you about a new social networking site. Twitter. I think it’s going to be big.

New state signs are always something to look forward to. Especially when you’ve been driving all day. Mile after mile. State after state…

Welcome signs make us feel like we are making progress. Moving forward. Fresh pastures. Greener grass. Turning over a new leaf. Smiling faces to sing to… Maybe road construction interfered with Rebecca’s #1 hobby of taking pictures of state welcome signs as we weren’t able to spot one. What’s a girl to do? So the next two days we assumed we were in Texas. The Don’t Mess With Texas signs along the highway should have been our first clue but we didn’t know for sure until we drove by the Alamo on our way to Casbeers in San Antonio.

We’ve played Casbeers many times over the years at their old location but we haven’t been to Texas in a while.  In the meantime they’ve set up shop in a new location. And what an awesome location it is!  It’s an old church in an historic neighbourhood not too far from the Alamo. The restaurant is downstairs and is still serving those tasty enchilada’s, with the concert area being upstairs in the church. Very rustic and beautiful. Apparently the stained glass was made in Europe, shipped to Pennsylvania and brought by train to San Antonio in 1912. And here we are looking at it in March of 2009!

Rebecca and Chris hopped on the shuttle to check out the historical majesty that is the Alamo. The rest of us chilled out and chatted with people we hadn’t seen for a while. Elli got up and sang some songs. We did too. Amazing acoustics. It’s always special playing in a church. So many things to reflect upon.  Thinking and wondering about all that’s happened within those walls over the years: Weddings. Funerals. Christmas eve’s. Easter mornings. Communions and baptisms. Drooping eyelids and crying babies. And tonight? Let’s turn it over to our celebrity MC Art Garfunkel:

“San Antonio. You are in for a treat. For one night only. The sweet, sweet tones of the Clumsy Lovers.  But first, a poem I wrote yesterday:

O Kathryn, I kissed you goodbye.

You were wearing a white cotton dress with pale
pink satin.
You were in the corner of the limousine, thirty
minutes ago.

Outside the car, on the sidewalk, it was 4:40,
Saturday afternoon.
Gorgeous, radiant sunshine fell on daddy and me.

It was the very middle of May.

How you delighted me all day long…You were
like a brook. And like a running mountain
brook you caught and reflected the
dazzling light.

You arrived cautious and curious. You had been
shopping for smells, and you bought a bubble-gum-
smelling eraser, a rootbeer lip gloss brush, a bottle
of cologne.

—Do you play chess? you said in the second minute.

At The Empire State, when we hit the big view at
the top—you took it in your own time. You were
Loch Lomond.

You like: typewriters, jigsaw puzzles, chocolate,
pianos, grape soda, three in a phone booth, Pez,
playgrounds and limousines. And most of all, it
seemed, was playgrounds—the carriage ride we
took to the carousel (where you rode the inside
horse) charmed your daddy and me

but the playground was the cat’s whiskers
to you. I tried to sign your nose…Kathryn,
thank you so much for giving me

Outside, daddy was saying “She’ll never be five
again.”

So my goodbye kiss is to the beautiful wake you
leave behind your beautiful course Kathryn.

the tribute of the current to the source

And now, as promised. The Clumsy Lovers!

Great to see Barb and Steve and all of our sweet San Antonio friends again.

It’s only an hour away so tomorrow we’ll wake up in Austin! Hope we didn’t miss South by Southwest….

Waking up in Austin is always cool. Assuming you have A.C. in the hotel room.  Such an awesome music town by the way.  Half the band got up early and drove downtown to check out the sights. The other half arose a while later and walked alongside the highway near the airport looking for signs of civilization. The hot Texas sun and the nervous pace made for a calorie neutral day and to top it off we weren’t mowed down by speeding traffic on our quest to locate a store to furnish us with money orders to pony express to various people waiting in various locations with their palms up.

We all headed downtown around dinnertime. Unloaded in the back alley and went off looking for parking. (this exciting account can be found on our Twitter page . Search clumsylovers. Our Twitter page is pretty lame so far but it’s not too far behind Larry Kings in terms of content…We’ll post lots of fun and mundane stuff when we are on the road next assuming Twitter is still around in a few weeks. Excuse me for a sec. I’ll be right back. I need to Ask Jeeves directions to Vancouver from Austin Texas:)

We eventually found parking but were disappointed to not see Lance Armstrong zipping by on his bike in search of Kate Hudson or the Magnolia Café or maybe an unprecedented 8th Tour de France victory…Did see a cute girl on a Bianchi though…

Played outside on the balcony tonight. Big beautiful moon. Perfect weather. Excellent people in abundance. Music blaring from everywhere in every direction on the streets surrounding. What more can you ask for to wrap up three weeks on the road?

Bellingham/Boise

Bellingham’s not too far away, but it sure seems to take forever to get there what with having to pick everybody up, brave the border lineup, organize our merch…Because we are trying to be home more during the week when we can, it generally means a lot more driving on either side of the weekend. Instead of forming a big loop, we do a lot more bee lining back and forth to Vancouver. But we often drive all day long when we are away for extended periods too so I guess we are kind of used to it. And now that we can Twitter from the road, the days just seem to fly by!

The Wild Buffalo is a great room. Well run, good stage setup and it’s not too big /not too small. We sound checked, grabbed a quick burrito and started the rocking earlier than usual as we normally have an opener, so it took a little while for the energy to build. But it did, and we played and we felt good about things and we made our way over to the hotel to rest for the long drive to Boise in the morning.

We had to leave pretty early, (5) as it was an early sound check so we were only able to sleep for 100 minutes. The Knitting Factory (formerly the Big Easy) is a place we’ve been playing on and off for 5 years or so. It’s a fun place and get’s lots of names in. How often do you get to play the night after Gwar or Lisa Marie Presley? The daughter of that famous singer from Mississippi?

An old friend and talented singer songwriter Doug Cameron opened up so it was good to see him and so many of the Boise folks that we’ve come to know over the years. It’s another top-notch place to play so it was good to be back. The crowd swelled up enough to make it quite festive. Played a bunch of new songs and experimented with some random ideas so overall it felt like a pretty fresh show. Like we’ve only been around ten years instead of fifteen:)

Olalla, Wahington

Day one of twenty-one! We’ll be heading to Pennsylvania and back with quite a few shows along the way. The summer’s been fairly busy the way it should be. It’s still hard to believe it’s august already! We haven’t crossed the border for a long time on a Saturday and the line-up was bad. Three hours at the Peace Arch so we drove to a more remote crossing and made it through in an hour or so.  It took a while to get to Olalla, a small town not too far from Tacoma for the Olalla Bluegrass festival!

We’ve played there four or five times over the years. It’s an awesome venue situated on a little league baseball diamond. Lots of families and kids and old friends and few road trippers from various states driving in to camp and enjoy the music. We set up and played a spirited one hour set to close the festival. The highlight was encouraging the dozens of rambunctious kids to run the bases of the diamond while we rocked out. Super cute! We stuck around for a little while and signed cd’s then we loaded up for the five hour drive to Spokane! Tylers friend Colton is traveling along with us on this tour working the merchandise table so we now have four men with beards in the van.

Spearfish South Dakota/Cleveland

Driving through rural Indiana after a nice breakfast and a couple of cups of strong coffee with the guys reflecting on the last week or so. Having said that, is it still called breakfast if you order it at 2 p.m? Let’s call breakfast the first meal of the day from now on. Since last we talked, we made it all the way from the Seattle area to over here in Indiana in two weeks or so playing seven or eight shows along the way. We had a few days off in that time but they were full on solid driving days. America is a BIG beautiful country. I can’t imagine how long it would take to traverse on horseback.

The first show along the way was the Back Porch in Spearfish South Dakota. The stage is set up to look kind of like a back porch. Nice promoter and sound tech and friendly staff and an enthusiastic audience. Weekday shows are often tough in almost any town so when the energy is good it’s time to rejoice and be thankful. Before the show most of us went to the fine Italian restaurant known as the Pizza Hut. Three of us were drinking coffee. When it came time for refills, instead of bringing over the pot of coffee for refills, the waiter gathered them up and retreated to a mysterious area out of sight in the back. That always makes me nervous in terms of the potential for the cups to get mixed up so I said to him jokingly before he left, “don’t mix them up. I don’t want any girl germs!”  His response was “I know exactly what you mean!” which I thought was kind of an odd reply. Sure enough when he came back the cup placed in front of me was sickly sweet so I passed it over to Jason. I guess I should have told him I didn’t want any boy germs. Not so bad really considering all the germs we’ve shared for all these years in the Petri dish that is our van. And besides, I’d take his familiar germs on my coffee cup over a perfect strangers any old day! The kid also brought us thin crust pizza instead of deep dish but he was so awkward, enthusiastic and cute we felt compelled to leave him a generous tip.

The next day was a driving day so we spent the night in Lacrosse Wisconsin. I was tempted by the whirlpool on the way to the hotel room but the two burly men sitting waist deep made me think three would definitely be a crowd. We left early the next day and magically ended up in Cleveland around midnight.

The first time we played The Beachland Ballroom was a show we did a long time ago opening up for a cool band out of New York called Donna the Buffalo. The last six or seven times in Cleveland we’ve played the tavern that is attached to the big ballroom. Always the bridesmaid never the bride I guess:) It’s actually the perfect sized room for us. A full smaller room is always easier on the psyche than a not full big room. Lots of old friends showed up too so it was good to catch up with everyone, play our happy music and head off into the night.

Thomas, West Virginia

A couple of hours outside of Pittsburgh along a beautifully scenic highway is the small town of Thomas, West Virginia. The Purple Fiddle is in a building from the turn of the century that at one time was the town’s general store. John books all kinds of singer songwriters and bands in from all over the States but he seems to have a particular affinity for Canadian bands.  Thomas is one of those towns where cell phones don’t work but they have a strong wifi signal at the venue so everyone spent a couple of hours emailing and Skyping and Facebooking and catching up with friends and family back home until it was time to play. We ripped through a good long healthy set.  I could hear my guitar and vocal chrystal clearly so that added to my enjoyment immensely. The best approach to mix the Clumsy Lovers is to set all the instruments at roughly the same level and let us iron out the dynamics.

Sound techs tend to keep the acoustic guitar really low in the overall mix.  An additional problem is that when I do take the occasional solo, it tends to get turned up to a proper volume right about the time the break has already reached it’s stunning and magical conclusion. I did travel with an EQ pedal for a while that I utilized to boost the signal of the guitar at times but that would sometimes have the opposite effect as the sound tech would wonder why he or she could suddenly hear the guitar so clearly, and they would overcompensate by quickly turning it down. Even worse, at the end of my solo I would deactivate the volume boost and because it had already been turned down out front it would be even less audible in the mix! I’m Peter Griffin and that’s what really grinds my gears! The obvious solution is to travel with a sound tech, but as we are trying to operate on a shoestring budget we only occasionally travel with one. And besides, two less asscheeks on the road means fresher air and more room for the rest of us.

We had some fans drive in from various places, including Baltimore so I was quizzing them on their take as to the accuracy of the HBO series The Wire. They said they had a friend who is a Baltimore police officer so I gave them my email and asked them to pass it on to their friend so we could start a dialogue. Oddly, enough it’s been two weeks and I haven’t heard from her. I guess the city of Baltimore keeps their officers pretty busy, or maybe she’s on vacation or something.

Columbus/Newport

We’ve played near Columbus, Ohio several times but never in Columbus itself. Tonight it would be Byrne’s pub. Something told me it was going to be an Irish pub and by golly I was right! We’ve played hundreds of Irish pubs over the years and by and large they’ve been a good time as a fun crowd generally shows up.  Maybe it’s the Guinness or the Oscar Wilde quotes on the wall, probably both, but sometimes it’s better to play a packed Irish pub then a huge rock and roll club or a theatre when playing a new town where unlike at Cheers, nobody knows your name.

People started filing in as showtime was coming round. It turns out a lot of people had heard of or seen the band before in Montana and nearby Dublin Ohio and various Irish festivals that we’ve played in the Midwest. It’s a real family affair with several brothers owning the place and proprietor Pat’s son doing a nice job behind the soundboard. One of the ladies behind the bar had recently traveled to Vancouver and hiked the Grouse Grind after reading about nature’s Stairmaster in the Lonely Planet travel guide. 80% per cent of the band felt her pain as she tearfully recalled burning lungs, stiff legs and a general feeling of hopelessness.

We played two solid sets and called it a day. Afterwards it could have very easily turned into a long night of merriment and socializing but we had one of those after the show drives to do to get to the hotel in Cincinnati.

The next evening we headed ten or fifteen miles down the road and across the river to the Southgate house in Newport, Kentucky. We had a really fun weekend show there a while back, but being a weekday our expectations were realistic. The venue is a historic mansion from the mid-nineteenth century. According to the plaque on the front lawn the inventor of the Tommy gun was born there in 1860. It’s an amazing building. Tonight we were playing upstairs about a half block and a hundred stairs from where we were able to park the van in the alley. Unfortunately due to a strained back I’ve been hobbling around slower than Tim Conway’s old man character on The Carol Burnett show, and unable to lift anything. The guys have been really helpful packing in an extra armload from the trailer and helping with packing and unpacking my gear. It certainly has made the tour feel a lot longer than three weeks. More like ten years actually. I guess we tend to take our mobility and general good health for granted until something happens to remind us of how fragile we are.*

Laurel opened the show with her husband on banjo. They played some nice tunes and are hoping to play out a little more in the future. We fired it up and seemed to connect with the audience. There was an Ow Sorry t-shirt, camera’s clicking and people singing along so that made these Canadian kids feel good about themselves.

Oh, and on a further positive note. At dinner Tyler bit into a name tag that had been baked into the pizza so they gave it to him for free! And the name tag too! He’s still wearing it. He almost looks like a Charlotte…

*Sting

Pennsylvania

We eventually ended up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania to play the Flood City Music Festival. We’ve been in the general area in the past, and played lots of shows in Pittsburgh but this was our first time to Johnstown. We arrived at the right time and unloaded our stuff then took a shuttle a little way down the road for some catered food. I asked our driver how big his town was and he thought for a long while before responding “I have no idea”. O.K. then… He was just being honest I guess as it depends if you include the surrounding counties…

Before we knew it was Showtime. We were introduced by a local TV personality sporting a nice white pair of pants and the games had officially begun. Did a nice long set of old and new material and some old-timey standards we’ve been throwing into the set lately. Summertime is the time for sing a longs!

We used the house monitors instead of our inn-ears to save a little time and cranked them up good and loud. In conjunction with a huge P.A. system it felt like a rock show. It sure is easy to sing when the speakers are making your voice sound louder than a jet taking off. After the show we hung around the merch booth and sold a bunch of stuff and met a lot of nice people. At least they seemed nice. Truth be told I didn’t actually get to know them that well:) It would have been nice to stick around and watch Donna the Buffalo perform but we had a bit of a drive to get to the hotel in Pittsburgh.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, we played at a place on the outskirts of town called Your Inner Vagabond the next night. Sunday nights are often tough to draw a crowd and tonight was not about to prove to be the exception to the rule. The place itself is really cool. It’s a coffee shop in the front and a music venue in the back with a middle eastern meets the Middle Ages theme similar to The Grotto in Knoxville if you’ve ever been there. Or the Afghan Horseman in Vancouver. Or some of the trippy scenes in I Dream of Genie…You get the picture.

The show itself was kind of the opposite of the night before in terms of volume, energy, cheering etc…but it was still fun in somewhat of a subdued way. The people that did show up were very appreciative and supportive and seemed happy to be there. The band seems to be pretty good about trying our best every night whether there are five or five thousand people in the audience. Or fifteen. And sometimes its shows like these where bands meet diehard supporters that will follow you till the day you hang up your hat. And they say you are only as good as your last performance, and as far as we know you only live once so there’s added incentive to sing our little hearts out every night!”

Michigan/Indiana

We’ve played some places in Indiana before but never the picturesque college town of Bloomington.  The venue tonight was called Max’s place. Pizza place by day, performance space by night. We arrived plenty early so there was ample time to drink coffee, surf the net and check out the downtown core. It sure was muggy and hot though, especially when it was time to suit up in our usual stage gear.

A young guy from the town warmed up the crowd with some acoustic tunes. The pizza crowd slowly left and a really nice bunch of listeners and dancers alike showed up for the show. We played two long sets, took some requests including “Mercy” for the booker. Thanks to sound guy/owner Travers for the CD of his band “Zion Crossroads”. He calls it Dreadneck music. It’s a new genre I guess. Anyway, it sounded pretty good in the van.

The next day we put Michigan in the GPS and ended up at the Saugatuck brewery in a town called Douglas. It’s not to far from Kalamazoo if you know where that is. Some talented guys from Michigan, WHO SHOT DON? opened up playing a little blue grassy style music with some good claw hammer playing. Big stage, big sound, small crowd. Everyone was super nice. A friend of ours from Tennessee flew into Chicago and rented a car to come to the show. He happens to be a chiropractor. I happen to currently have a messed up back. Needless to say I think it’s the first time anyone’s had a chiropractic adjustment at the Saugatuck Brewery.

Saturday night was the brew festival in Traverse City, Michigan. And boy did it rain. The crowd didn’t seem to mind. Maybe the waterfall of unlimited microbrew was helping to warm the drenched patrons. We got stuck in the mud driving in and had to be towed out. It got dark, we started playing and the crowd began to swell. Just like my pride did back in 1994 when I watched Rebecca ride a bike for the first time. Set went really well. Everyone played well and the time flew by. We had poor merch guy Colton set up under a tree in the dark in the storm. He actually seemed to like it. Ah….the resiliency and hardiness of youth.

Wet rainy pack up back to the trailer to make way for the headliner, Zydeco king Buckwheat Zydeco. Said a quick hi before the show. He smelt good. Makes me want to start wearing cologne.

The main reason we came this far east was to play some music festivals that had expressed interest in booking us over the years and scheduling wise we weren’t able to make it happen until now. Like the Porcupine Music Festival in Michigan’s upper peninsula. What a spectacular drive! It reminded me a lot of Ontario. Again we got there pretty early so we had time to do various things like watch Flight of the Conchords, teach a banjo workshop, climb the ski hill for a view of Lake Superior, and check out the other bands including the wonderful Deke Dickerson. We closed down the festival with a 90-minute set including a couple of encores. Then it was off to a cabin on the shoreline of the aforementioned Lake Superior. I love the ocean but those Great Lakes are pretty great too! There’s a band called the Great Lake Swimmers I don’t mind. Saw them at the Vancouver Folk Festival. When we got to the cabin the neigbour was having a barbecue and invited us over. Almost everyone was asleep by midnight all tucked in and cozy in their little beds like the Brady children circa 1970 before Peter’s voice changed.”