Gig Journal 2007-2008

 

 

 

 

Dec 30, 2008

 

Gig Journal 2007-2008

Or...

How Not to Make it as a Musician

by James Higgins

 

 

Wild Buffalo BIMA Showcase

This was our last live performance of the year so it was nice to wind it up with a good night.

A feel good fifteen minutes. We played Spoonful, Vampire Blues, Henhouse and Annecy. I hadn't really thought on it before but each one of those songs has a unique musical moment. Charlie's Spoonful solo, Donald's Batman solo, a cazumpet solo and singing in French. Our short set kept the audience, if not exactly enthralled, at least propped up and facing the right way. I guess it's what you'd call an "Elevator Pitch"

Beforehand, I was chatting with some musicians outside the Buffalo. One guy turns to me and says, "Hey I know you. You're the guy with the washtub".
It's a sad state of affairs when I'm better known for my wash tub playing than my guitar playing.

We hadn't really been looking forward to this gig much but in the end there was a lot of positive vibes from the punters and staff. As usual though there was no time to hang about to enjoy the rest of the great music. In fact we went on around 9:15 and I was back home by 10:30.

The Wild Buffalo is the only bar I know that serves coffee in a tea bag format. I can safely say that it's reasonably disgusting. Dishwater (spulwasser) flavour. The waitresses are very apologetic when they serve it and I too was very sorry when I drank it.

Happy new year when it comes.

……….

Dec 26, 2008

Croaking at the Green Frog Acoustic Tavern

The Green Frog is, in a word, "Basic". If you've ever drank in the darkness of the Schwabinger Seoben in Munchen, then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Though, in actual fact the Green Frog has some added attractions: A peanut shell carpet, picnic tables, and a pack of dogs. It's a long room with a spittoon on the stage. (Or was that the women's toilets?) Guitars and banjo shaped implements hung from hooks along one wall and are at the disposal to anyone brave enough to tune them.
I'd played in there a few times before. Once with my brother Joe and once with Derek Duffy's band, Finnegan's Wake on Paddy's Night. This was the first time though that the Muddy Boots and myself were on the spittoon stage together.

I'd rewritten our set list several times earlier in the day. I just wasn't sure how to approach this gig. Then when Tree cancelled, I had to write it again. In the end it was a makeshift set of songs.
I also had a bit of a cold. My nose was so blocked that after the gig someone asked me if we were called, "The Buddy Boots?" I guess that was how I'd introduced the band. "James Higgins and Da Buddy Boots."

Perhaps it was just me, but I sensed that a nervousness had crept on stage with us. It felt that we weren't really tuned into one another. The focus and concentration weren't there. Possibly the cramped stage was partially to blame. Eye contact wasn't easy because Donald had to stand behind me in a black alcove. It could have been that we felt we were auditioning for a regular gig. Why ever it was, it took us a long time to relax.

Even though Hil came up at the end and told us it sounded great, we really knew that we hadn't impressed ourselves. Having said that though, this was probably a far better gig than we were capable of a mere 6 months ago.

So I guess there was a positive side to the evening. It was nice to see Ronan's teachers, Steve and Kathy in the assembly. They were kind enough to buy some CDs.
Also we got to play, Driving Down Chuckanut, for the first time live.

Looking back on the gig, I'd say most of our mistakes were in the intros and endings. Forgivable details, but it does highlight the fact that we haven't been practicing enough lately and are losing a little of our sharpness.
In the end, it was still a heap of fun. Mistakes and all. We shouldn't lose sight of that.

As for pay?......... Peanuts.

Riveting stuff.

Rivet. Rivet.

Dec 20, 2008

 

Christmas Fairs Gigs

As I write, Christmas is now over and so are the gigs at the Bellingham art fairs. Looking back, I'd say they were a lot of fun and great practice opportunities to run some unfamiliar songs by some unsuspecting ears. I enjoyed playing with the 3Ds and with The Donalds and their upstairs neighbour.
Of all the years I've played at the Allied Arts Fair, it's never been particularly exciting but I'd say that this year was the most subdued. Almost hushed. Whispery. People rarely sat down to listen. Tips which were never great anyway, were almost zero. Perhaps it's a sign of these troubled economic times or it may have been the snow that blew in from the Arctic in mid December and gave us an icy white Christmas. Maybe we were all just crap.

Sunday the 30th of November. Allied Arts.

I brought the tub down and joined in with the 3Ds. There were actually 5 of us. Dale, Donald, Janice, me, and a bouron player named Chris. (I think).
We played about an hour and I just joined in when I felt comfy. The music was sort of bluegrassy, Irishy folk music. Very pleasant to the ear. Not many vocals, mainly instrumental.

………………………

Saturday the 6th of December.

Played the Allied arts festival with Donald. (Charlie had the plague) The place was a little busier than last time. We played a very folksy and laid back hour. Good Practice.

After our set, Dale showed up with his mandolin and banjo. Janice had her flute. Her daughter, Janice Junior had her violin. I joined in with the wash tub bass and did the best I could. Mainly it was bluegrass and Irish instrumentals. One song in particular that I enjoyed was called, "The Red Haired Boy". Very catchy. My Mother always said that I used to have red hair as a kid till I started washing it on my own. Now I have dark hair.

Anyway from the the Allied Arts place, Donald and I headed off for a quick set at the Pacific Arts Festival just down the road. It was almost closing time but we managed to get in a half hour practice then it was time to call it a day. We'd started playing at 3pm and finished at 6pm. We thought about going to the Uisce Irish pub to see if Dave and Molly might let us play a few songs, but I was too brain dead.

……………………

Friday 12th December.

I turned up at the Allied Arts Fair with my wash tub. Donald and his upstairs neighbour were playing bluegrass and Irish tunes. Dale had been scheduled to play but had gone away somewhere.
We played for an hour or so, and then me and Donald went down to Stuarts Café to cheer on Charlie at his wee gig.

………………………

Saturday 13th December.

Donald on the bass and me on guitar. We sat in the corner and doodled some tunes and chatted with Beth while practicing a bunch of obscurities. I played a song called "Crooked Man", that I wrote way back on the Isle of Skye over 20 years ago. It just popped into my mind.

……………………

Sat 20th

A Day in the Life of a Band

Quite a day. It was freezing. And I don't just mean chilly for June. It was icy stinging cold with a wind that made me groan and set children to tears.

The actual gig at the Allied Arts was uneventful. Donald played bass and I sang and played my guitar. Leslie and Robin from Mocking Bird were browsing around and we had an impromptu sing song. The overall gig was a very casual performance. In fact I even played, Epouventaill and a piece of September in our Hands. That's 2 songs I don't think I've ever played before. In fact we also threw in a version of Jack Johnson's song "Friends" and Little Drummer Boy. The gig at the Pacific Arts was rather anticlimactic even by our subdued scale. They tucked us away in the basement where we sang by a rather sad and economically depressed Christmas tree. The vendors and the little kids seemed to enjoy our little distraction though and one sympathetic guy even bought a CD.
We finished that gig off singing Santa is a Hippy to the tune of Coming Round the Mountain. It was that exciting. But what else would we be doing on a winter afternoon.

But the events of the day outwith the gigs were the real comedy.
I was chopping wood and clearing snow from the path within a few minutes of waking up. Then Hil, Ronan and I set off for the gig. On the way we planned to shop while the van got new tires. Well the shops were insane and the tyre place had a five hour waiting list. Poor wee Ronan was frozen and started to cry. We decided to skip the shopping and return to the tyre place later. Hil was reluctant to drive the car any further in the snow but finally we had no choice but to do so. That took a lot of tricky stunt driving but Hil managed to drop me on State Street and I walked over to Cornwall Ave while she and Ronan rightly headed home to the stove.
Meanwhile Charlie was back out at Gooseberry Point drowning as he attempted to repair a neighbour's shower. A flood ensued and plumbers were called. It had all started so innocently with the simple unscrewing of a shower piece which suddenly resulted in Charlie taking a high pressure hose down. Needless to say Charlie wasn't at the gig. For all I know he may still be out there, swimming against the current. Folks out there may be experiencing an extra high tide at the ferry crossing for the next few days
.
So after the gig at the pacific Arts which was fairly anonymous and completely void of tips or pay, (We have a lot more sound checks than pay checks) we packed up the dollar van but it refused to start. Jumper cables produced no heart beat. It was dead. It may have been frostbite but there was no time for an autopsy. Janice and William bravely shuffled off to fetch her car from home. When she returned, we transferred everything to her car and they kindly drove me home just as the snow started again.
I got back just as Hil had to leave for her tyre appointment. I took over Ronan duty. She was back after five minutes because the VW bus had gotten stuck in the driveway.
Not a very positive day but I know we'll laugh about it soon enough.

There was one highlight in the day.
Just as we were packing our stuff up at the Pacific Arts, Jason (ex drummer with the Boots and still occasional jam alonger) came down the stairs. He had his 3 week old little baby Eva snuggled up cozy inside his jacket. Unfortunately we were all carrying too many flu germs to get too close a peek at his little Darling but she seemed a content little baby with a very proud beaming father. Congratulations.

And so ended my Allied and Pacific Arts adventure for this year.
Merry Christmas.

Dec 18, 2008

Swan Cafe

With close to a foot of snow blanketing Bellingham and with our van buried in the yard, we took the local bus into town for this gig. Hil and Ronan then went shopping while I met the lads to set up our gear.

There was plenty that could go wrong with this gig. Firstly the volume issue. Last time we were repeatedly told to turn it down. Secondly, I was fighting a nasty cough and wasn't sure if I would be able to make it through the evening. Lastly, a new drummer (Named Chuck) was sitting in for Tree. He'd never played with us before, so neither he nor we had any idea what to expect. Due to the noise restriction, he only brought along a bare percussive skeleton drum kit, supplemented with a cowbell, a symbol, and a washboard. He proved to be an excellent drummer and certainly had the lightest touch of any drummer I've ever played with. But still it was too loud for the tender ears of the powers that be. In the end we were so "unplugged" that my microphone was really only for show. I actually had to strain to hear the drums at times. It's not often that we have to do that. I think I sing too loud. It must be all those years spent busking where the rule of thumb is, "If you can't be good, be loud". Old habits die hard.

If some mythical amps can have a volume setting of 11 instead of the standard 10, then for the Swan Cafe gig we needed an amp that could go down to minus one.

Musically, I managed to keep the vocals together (Well, as much as ever anyway). Charlie and Donald were as solid as ever, and Chuck just blended in nicely. In the end, time flew by and we had a great evening. We even got paid… and we each got a food voucher. We're living the dream.

Best of all though was Chana's food gift to the band families. She'd cooked up a couple of spaghetti sauces and had put them in jars in a basket along with all the trimmings including a fresh baguette. Wow! That's dinner sorted out for the next week.

Dec 12, 2008

The Legendary Charlie Baker Band at Stuarts

This was actually Charlie's gig but he'd been ill all week and was still fighting it. So after he'd played a half an hour he sent out a croaky distress call to the audience. Me and Donald went to the rescue. We'd been playing over at the Allied Arts Festival and had our implements with us. Between us we brought a guitar, a mandolin and the washtub bass. I'm not sure if we improved on what Charlie had been doing on his own but it helped him make it through the evening. To be honest I couldn't really tell that he was suffering up there. He sounded in good voice to me as he sang his way through a fine collection of 60's folk songs.

This was the second time in a matter of months that Charlie had emerged from solo show hibernation. For the previous thirty years he'd taken a vow of silence concerning such gigs. Now with two gigs in quick succession, he was practically on tour. You can't keep a good man down.

The whole show lasted about two hours. It started with Charlie on his own, then we joined him with washtub bass and mandolin, and ended with us all playing unplugged, with two guitars and mandolin. It was a pleasant evening. Low key and mellow, and as ever, a lot of fun.

And just like three wise men rolled into one, Charlie came bearing gifts. He'd brought along copies of the latest demo mix, some chocolate chip cookies from Chana, and some Obama bumper stickers. As if that wasn't enough, he chivalrously shared his gig money with us and for a dazzling encore, he gave me a lift home. Well done Charlie. Now I just hope he hasn't shared his influenza as generously.

Nov 26, 2008

Swan cafe

The Swan Café.

This café is actually inside the Co-op supermarket. I'd never gigged inside a supermarket before. I've busked outside a million of them but never officially got a gig inside one.
As it happens, it was a very pleasant experience, though the managers were right on top of us, telling us to turn it down each time we got over excited. I guess they're just doing their jobs. Personally I have no overpowering urge to be loud. I am content in the corner jamming with some friends. But somehow people often associate music with noise. When a supermarket manager is doing your sound check then all is not well. Lucky for all concerned, we didn't bring along the drum kit. Everything was resolved amicably and the show went on.
We played for about two hours from about 4pm till 6pm. It was a mellow affair with shoppers drifting in and out for coffees and snacks. There was no sense of people's mentalities changing like they do in bars as the night wears on. People were friendly and relaxed. There was no need to play the songs in any particular order. This was probably the folksiest gig we'd ever played.
I guess the indigenous tribes of the co-op are semi hippy, peace loving clans. They're an all age alternative, hemp clad, vegan, pagan, liberal anarchist movement of fashionably homeless, drop out students and snowboarders.
Did I miss anything?
An interesting crowd to play for. In fact most likely they are the perfect listeners for our kind of music.

At the moment we try to play 50% my music and 50% other stuff. The "Other Stuff", is made up of a bunch of old blues, some JJ Cale, Dylan, Neil Young, and odds and ends.
I find it very strange how few Neil young songs I perform live these days. As a busker I had hours worth of his material on call. I learned his stuff by the album almost without trying. There was something about his music and lyrics that just stuck in my head. I've no idea why.
I think I gave up on singing Neil Young songs because as my voice morphed over the years, it became harder and harder to reach the squeaky notes. So for now I only play a couple and those on rare public occasions. I do still enjoy playing his stuff at home. I am naturally drawn to songs in D minor style open tunings. They are very addictive. Perhaps D is the key of the world.
Anyway the Co-op gig was fine. I hope the next one's as enjoyable.
I must say it's the first time that I spent 2 hours in a supermarket and didn't buy anything.

Nov 25, 2008

Wild Buffalo

Wild Buffalo
The Ghost of Robert Plant.

Before I came to the States, I quite enjoyed Led Zeppelin. I liked a lot of their stuff. Remember, "In the Evening", with its classic solo that sounded like Jimmy Page had tripped over a cable and fallen off stage. Then of course there was the legendary Led Zep 4 album which was a work of rock art. They made a lot of fine music. It's hard to imagine a rock fan could tire of such an opus.
But after a year in the states listening to the classic rock radio stations, I began to suspect that Led Zeppelin owned the airwaves. Robert Plant's voice seemed to broadcast continually. Perhaps I was imagining it, but there were moments when I'd turn on the morning radio and Robert Plant was already up and halfway through Whole Lotta Love. If he wasn't there, you could bet your Bronyar Stomp he soon would be. I once timed the longest period of hours that were Plant free. Forty five minutes was the limit. There was also a request show where listeners could call up and ask for any rock song under the sun. The DJ would announce, "We have Andy Arbuckle on the line from Arkansas. Hi Andy. What song would you like to hear?"
"Could you play The Battle of Evermore by Zeppelin?"
"Great choice Andy. Have a nice day".
And so gradually Led Zep began to annoy me so much that I'd jump at the radio and turn it off if zeppelin were even mentioned. The same treatment went to the television too, where he also popped up all the time. I'm not much of a TV person. Late at night I'll sometimes watch for an hour before bed. Sure enough there I was catching the tail end of Craig Ferguson and it's, "Ladies and gentleman now a real rock star….. Mr. Robert Pla…". I was moving across that room like a goalkeeper from an ejector seat, diving full length and saving a certain goal. My finger hit the off button and the "n,t," in Plant was diverted round the post as the ref blew full time on TV land.
This really was a shame for my zeppelin relationship to end that way. To this day I am still scarred and I ask myself, if there exists a Robert Plant vocal recording that doesn't descend into a screaming, "Baby, baby, yeah yeah ooh ooh, aaaaaaaaaaaaaah, .aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah" grande finale.
Well at least he's out there doing it.

But I digress.

I believe I've mentioned before that the acts that perform at the monthly BIMA showcase are getting bigger each time.
On this November evening, a 14 year old singer/guitarist named Ely got up on stage and blew the house down. His band comprised of a bassist who may have been his father and a drummer who may have been very good. Ely had a powerful, angelically reverbed set of A.O.R. lungs. The band thundered through their short set, culminating in a note perfect rendition of….. Led Zeppelin's, Stairway to Heaven. The crowd stood and clapped and cheered. There was screaming and fainting and wetting of underpants. Even I couldn't help smiling despite my aversion to Zeppelin. I have to say that the band was indeed excellent and most certainly a tough act to follow.

When the crowd calmed back down, the host called out for the next act. But the expected musician on the roster had fled the premises in fright. The host surveyed the crowd, then shrugged and looked at his list. "….Next up…..James Higgins and The Muddy Boots…."
Now I felt like fleeing the building. Oh for a buffer act between us and The Ely band. Even a humble ventriloquist act to absorb the punches and ease the audience down from their Ely euphoria would have sufficed. But it was not to be. The last musician had sensibly defected and was probably still running. And so, as we climbed up onto the stage, I was reminded of another Led Zeppelin song, "Gallows Pole".

Anyway, we did a 30 second sound check and played Enjara, Annecy, Girl in a Redwood, and by popular demand or else another musician had just slit his wrists, we played one more (Bootlegger Blues).

As we came off, I saw Charlie and Donald (No Justin with drums tonight) gesturing in bewilderment with one another. Apparently they'd been all over the place and hadn't been able to hear where they were in each song. They'd just fumbled along as best they could. Dazed and Confused as it were. I had been aware of a murkiness in the mix but didn't realize how chronic the sound check had been. I should have guessed it when I saw Beth turn off her video camera half way through our set. In my misguided delusion I'd thought we'd played alright. Alas no chance.

Then I saw Hil stepping purposefully through the crowd in our direction. She stopped beside us, gazed at the floor, and shook her head. "That was awful", she pronounced.
Yikes. Or as Clark Kent would say, "Golly". Or as Robert Plant would have said, "Aaaaaagh baby baby. Ooooooh."
Anyway it seems we'd played crap, though Hil relented a little when the beer wore off, but not much. Still, I'd rather have a critic than a groupie for a wife.
She was probably right. Maybe we shouldn't have chosen that night to practice a new batch of material but I really was getting bored singing the Hens in the Henhouse every month.
I think mostly, Hil was disappointed. Apparently somewhere along the way, we'd accidentally set a high standard. This night though, I think we simply paled in the wake of a brighter star.
"Rock n Roll."

Nov 3, 2008

Boundary Bay

James Higgins and the Muddy Boots Band.
Election Eve.

Rode my bike into town tonight. Got to the boundary bay, stepped off and stood on a dog shit. "Well", I thought, "Things can only get better from here".

For me, this was probably the best gig we ever played at the Boundary Bay. Beforehand I wrote out a set list and really put some thought into it. Then just to be different, we actually followed it song for song. We played an hour and 15 minutes before taking a break. Between songs, we hardly paused for chit chat. We just cruised on through. I had been curious as to just how long we could play before we had used up the best stuff with no fillers. I think we did respectably well.
Lots of friendly faces filled the bar. Pat was there from the Rustix. Long time no see. He came in with the La Fiama Pizza crowd. Jordan from Brookstock dropped in and gave me 2 CDs worth of our set at the Brookstock Festival. He'd kindly mixed it down for us. Ralph, Beate and Sebastian made up the German Stammtisch, Hil's bike friends were there, our immediate families, and a few other regulars. It all created a cozy intimate atmosphere.

Our second set was only a half hour or so of left over material. All good stuff right enough. You could call it a self appointed encore. We got rockier as the room emptied but the gig had essentially been over at the break. By then we'd said what we had to say.

Funniest moment of the night must have been when, me, a Scotsman, who can barely be understood in English by Americans, suddenly started singing French with a Glasgow accent. Quite a sight. After that extravaganza, I turned to Charlie and said, "I think we need a universal translator". He looked at me and said "What"?

Most fun songs of the evening? I'd say, "Factory Girl", "Annecy", and "Spoonful".

Well it looks like that will be the last gig at the Boundary Bay for a while. Maybe if Obama gets elected as President, he'll get the economy back on track. Forget Joe the plumber and his agent, what about James the musician and the Muddy Boots?

Nov 2, 2008

The Wake

James and the Boots

Wake

A friend of Gus had a fatal motorcycle crash last week out on the Mount Baker Highway.
The service was held at the River of Life Church but the wake was held at the Little Roadside Tavern. We were the band. Yes, the band, and we really had some reservations on how to tackle such a responsibility. It didn't help that I had no idea who the dead person was. I can only hope we did his memory justice.

The place was fairly busy but the atmosphere was a little subdued. I suspect people were putting a brave face on what was naturally not the happiest day on the calendar. Folks played pool and hung out, drinking beer, and eating sloppy Joe burgers. Voices were low and murmuring, rather than the normal boisterousness that I associate with the Tavern. I must admit that I felt a little out of context. I constantly reminded myself that this was not a Funeral. This was a Wake. Funerals are sad. Wakes are celebrations of the life of the deceased. But still, I wasn't sure how jolly I was allowed to be. I couldn't look too sad but I couldn't look too blissful. I had to respect the dead, entertain the living and not be too cheesy. In the end, we just did our usual set and between songs, I just kept my mouth shut.
In all honesty this was understandably a thinly disguised evening of mourning.

Looking back on the night from a strictly musical point of view, I guess that we actually played quite well without really investing too much energy. Maybe we're getting the hang of this biz. Still, you're only as good as your last gig.

Hopefully, the next time we are out at Nugent's Corner, the occasion will be less tragic. My sympathy goes out to the family of the deceased.

Oct 28, 2008

Wild Buffalo

Wild Buffalo
Songsalive BIMA Showcase.

As always, a great evening down at the Wild buffalo Showcase. I believe there were 16 acts. That's a lot of music for free. I can't remember everybody's name. There was a Bob Dylan impersonator. He sang some really slow versions of very long Dylan songs. Half way through his rendition of Tangled up in Blue, I went for a walk up Holly Street. I stopped by the Three Trees Café then I meandered around the down town area and back to the Buffalo. The Dylan guy, who was actually quite good, was still singing the same song.
Next up came a couple of fine acoustic players, and then I helped out the Three D's with my wash tub bass. They were mourning the recent loss of Diana. A lot of her friends had turned up. In a way it was kind of like another wake. The second this week. I was only fortunate to have met her once. Everyone said she was the most selfless person they ever met. She lived to give.

Later around 9PM, me, Donald and Charlie got on stage and played, Enjara, Broadway, and of course, The Hens in the Henhouse.

Stone Soup got up after us. They seem to have changed their name to something bizarre and not easily remembered. But the music was still a nice blend of folksy swing.
I can't recall who else went up after that. It's always such a sociable night. I just hung out at the bar and spoke to anyone who stopped by for a chat. I guess I'm still a bar fly at heart.
There was a guy on stage just as I was leaving who had a guitar and an intricate looking set of home made foot drums. He was playing slide blues and playing a beat at the same time. He was quite good. I was packing up my washtub bass to leave when I twanged a note. I was surprised how much it resonated in the room. The guy looked down from the stage and gave me a nod to keep going. So I just kept twanging that washing line string till the end of the song. I guess it was some kind of spontaneous organic blues thing. Sure was fun. Then it was time to go.

Oct 27, 2008

JH and the Muddy Boots at the Boundary Bay

An ordinary gig. What can I say? We enjoyed it. So far these Monday nights have followed a pattern. Busy for the first hour then quiet for the second.
There were a lot of good moments during the gig but for some reason I didn't feel too chatty. The gig didn't quite "flow". Still, Spoonful was good, Enjara was lively, Little Red Rooster was fun, and Annecy is becoming the new Hens in the Henhouse.
The last half hour really gave us a chance to test drive some new material and revisit older stuff. "Factory Girl" was given a good stomp right at the end. Charlie's backing vocals really add life to it. Donald was solid as ever, and Tree, despite rarely actually practicing with us, is definitely developing a raport with the songs.
We'll all do fine as long as we avoid wearing sunglasses.

Oct 25, 2008

James and the Muddy Boots at the Little Roadside Tavern

Little Roadside Tavern
Oct 25

Never a dull moment out at the Little Roadside tavern.
Not much of a crowd present but they are always friendly and generous.
We usually have a good time out there and always feel welcome.

I am though, becoming convinced that there is a Nugent's Corner dialect. Sometimes people are talking to me and I find that I generally understand the words but not the meaning. What exactly is a "Skinny midget?" What is, "Scrubbing bones?" I dread to think about it too much. Are they related?
Imagine, me, a Scotsman with a thick guttural Glasgow accent, complaining about American dialects. What is the world coming to? People here, claim to only understand me when I sing.
Maybe we should all sing!

Oct 20, 2008

Boundary bay 20th Oct

I promised myself that I wouldn't write about every Boundary Bay gig as I think it would get tedious and repetitive, but I thought that this one deserved a mention.
Mainly because it was just a great little evening: a very relaxed atmosphere with an appreciative audience.
Loads of friends came by and most stayed the whole night. Hil and Janice were there. Hil's bike friends were there too. Kim and Ben from Brookstock showed up. Liz Film-maker and her Montana husband were there. A lady from Charlie's work was there with her boyfriend. Ashley, a long time friend of the Boots was there briefly. Kyle was at the bar enjoying his after work beer. Definitely a home crowd. So many familiar and friendly faces put us in high spirits and we really reaped a stack of positive energy from them.
This was probably our most fun evening at the Bay since we began our regular Mondays. The one thing that audiences seem to consistently pick up on, is that the band is really having fun. (Which we usually are). I'm glad that comes across. I guess that's what it's all about. It can be too easy to forget sometimes.

I felt that this was a good solid gig. At the end, thanks to our patient and understanding crowd, we treated ourselves to the luxury of some live practicing. We ran through, Factory Girl, You Ain't Going Nowhere, and Tears Tears Tears (A song I'd worked out off the radio a few hours earlier). There's nowhere like on stage for learning quickly.
So I guess this is really a big thank you to all those folks who dropped in and gave us their moral support.
And happy birthday Donald.

Oct 18, 2008

3Ds and 2Js at Bellingham Farmers Market

A Wee Bit of Busking.


T'was a mild and sunny October afternoon.
I took the washtub down the market again and tubbed away on some old bluegrass tunes with the 3 Ds (Donald, Dale and Diane). Janice was there too, playing the flute and singing. I had no idea she was so musical. But I should have guessed it. Is there anyone in Donald's clan that doesn't play an instrument?
It's a pleasant change for me to be busking but not be singing. I was there about an hour and had a great wee time.
All profits of course go to local charity, the Bellingham Food Bank.

It was such a beautiful day to be out. Full of golden autumn colours and just enough heat in the sun to call it mild. It reminded me of Rik back in Regensburg living upstairs from the Irish Harp pub with about a half dozen other penniless buskers in a 2 room apartment. He woke up on a fine autumn day and looked out his window. He declared aloud that it was such an exceptional morning that he didn't know whether to get his camera out and go take photos or go busking. At which point a Cork accent from the other room says. "Oh sure boy, that's a great idea. And why don't you photograph a hundred deutschmark note while you're at it and give it to Paul (Landlord) for the rent. Jaizus we might even get change". Rik shuffled off to busk.

Oct 14, 2008

Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen

Deserted. That's the only word I can use to describe this venue. It was so empty that after we played one set, they put the chairs up and hung out the "closed" sign.
Still, the kitchen staff seemed to enjoy it. That's always a good sign. (And we got paid).
The acoustics were good too. Tree kept his drums under control and thanks to Donalds tiny wee PA system, we were loud but not overpowering. I had pre-gig fears that we'd blow the place apart, but in fact we were quite mellow.
I believe hope remains for this gig. Had it been busy, I think we'd have gone over well. Outside, I saw they had a beer garden. In summer this might be a serious alternative to the Boundary Bay.

Oct 13, 2008

Boundary bay Monday #2

Regular Gig 2 at Boundary Bay.
Monday 13th Oct.
This gig was almost a carbon copy of the last gig we played there except that pianist Paul Klein sat in for the first song and then helped out with the sound check. Which was very neighbourly of him. He tweaked the sound in a quietly clinical systematic fashion which reminded me of someone casually culling a herd of Red Deer. He trimmed off the excess noise and thinned it into a manageable racket. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it. "Down with the drums", he said firmly but apologetically. So out went the drumsticks. Down went the volume on the acoustic guitar. "Hug the mic. Turn up the bass etc".
Somehow it all took shape and everyone agreed it sounded fine. Thanks Paul.

As I said, the gig itself followed a similar path as last time: fairly busy but emptying out early. Happily, a lot of friendly faces stuck around till the end. Paddy and Emmelance were still in town visiting. They came down to lend some moral support. That was nice.
A strange thing though, was that we played while the big sliding garage doors were wide open to the street. We'd never done that before. I guess it makes for a faster getaway if the crowd get nasty. Across the car park there was a large crowd of people who were doing a full scale choreographed dance routine. It looked like, Michael Jackson's "Thriller". I guess they were rehearsing for Halloween.

All in all, I think we played a solid gig again. A few scattered misdemeanors reared their heads but on the whole, we were still tight. I find it hard to believe sometimes that we only got together a few months back.

Best song of the night for me personally?…. I must confess, I actually kind of enjoyed "Traveling Bag". Best Audience song?...... I think it was "Annecy".There was a couple swinging along to it outside on the sidewalk. I guess it's catchy and it's got that singalong bit even though I fumbled up the words as usual. Once I learn it better, I'll no doubt enjoy it more.

Charlie mentioned that he'd done five of the lead tracks on our CD project. We might almost have a demo on our hands though I'm sure I need to redo my vocals.

Oct 11, 2008

Bellingham Market

Oct 11th 2008
Busking down at the Farmer's Market.

I got the old wash tub bass out and headed down the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. Donald busks down there a lot with a friend called Dale. Donald played his guitar while Dale played his mandolin. I helped out with the wash tub bass and twanged away.
I only played about fifteen minutes but The 2 D's must have played a lot longer.
All profits went to local charity, the Bellingham Food Bank.

Oct 6, 2008

James higgins and the Muddy Boots. Boundary Bay.

James Higgins and the Muddy Boots
Boundary Bay October 6th 2008

It was nice to see a lot of friendly faces in the Boundary Bay for this gig. Sadly though, being a Monday evening, so many had to leave early. Band member families were present. Chris and Bob also showed up. I hadn't seen them in ages. Two of Ronan's teachers showed up too. Kyle appeared near the end of the night. He'd been working downstairs in the prep kitchen and having finished his shift came up to prop up the bar and lend an ear.
During the first set, the bar was busy and there was a nice buzz in the place. Seems the Red Sox won something tonight and this jovialised the folks around the TV set at the bar.
Tree did a great sound check which is always inspiring. Charlie and Donald were on fine form. I think we played a solid energized first hour but when we took a break, people began to filter out. By the start of the second set, there were only a few scattered survivors left. Our energy level dropped proportionally with every person who left the room. By the end we were playing a tired version of Orgon Accumulator more for time wasting than for fun. Which isn't really our style. But then as if to redeem ourselves, we played, what felt to me, like a nice version of Can't Keep Me. Thus we gave it all a happy ending. I can see that future gigs in the Bay are going to require a plan B exit strategy, depending on the house mood.

I think we actually played very well this night. Mistakes seemed few and small scale. We didn't have any long lingering gaps between songs. Truth be told, I quite enjoyed the whole evening. There were a lot of highlights. "Please Don't Go" was great. "Wang Dang Doodle" still makes me laugh. "Broadway" felt the most comfortable we ever played it. I enjoyed "Any Old Time" and "Spoonful". "Blowing Down the River" worked too. Sometimes that song can die a death for no real reason at all. But tonight was a tight and lively version. I don't think we even played the whole set list. The Annecy song, Who'll Rock That Cradle, and the Thylacine song were completely forgotten. A few others too. Tonight would have been a perfect evening to air them out and give them a test drive.

Bottom line….. Good gig, no crowd.
Solution?..... Make Tuesdays a holiday.

Sep 7, 2008

James and the Muddy Boots at the Honeymoon

Muddy Boots at Jim and Sally's Wedding Celebration.

At The Honeymoon

Congratulations Jim and Sally. A great day, great people, great food. Sally, you were the Belle of the Ball. Jim, you were a perfect host. Thanks for the privilege of playing at your wedding. Your parents were amazing. More than 60 years together and still dancing.
Well any gig that starts off with a cazumpet solo of Here Come the Clowns and ends with the words, "Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub", has got to have been interesting in between. And indeed it was.
This was just such an enjoyable night. Everyone was all dressed up and in a festive mood. Even I wore a shirt. (Gasp). There were a lot of sharp dressed musicians walking about apologetically saying, "Honest, I don't normally look like this." There goes our street credibility.

The Honeymoon is a quaint one room wine bar with a high ceiling that makes for great musical acoustics. I'd never been in there before but my first impression was that it had a warm welcoming atmosphere. Perhaps that was due to the staff or maybe it was the friendly familiar faces of the clientele.

We'd left the drums behind and we were more or less unplugged which is my favourite kind of sound check. Donald had his bass plugged into his wee amp while me and Charlie had our acoustic guitars. First we played an easy going half hour set, then, after a pause for a delicious dinner, Charlie had to leave. I guess it really had been a hard day and we were just happy he showed up at all. Thus, The Muddy Boots, depleted and wounded as they were, carried on. Luckily there were plenty of musicians ready to volunteer at short notice. Mark sat in with his harmonicas and we played some real fun stuff including La Ville D'Annecy and some apparently danceable blues. Beate got her guitar out later and she played a lovely version of What a Wonderful World and then we all played everyone's favourite jam along song, Knocking on Heavens Door. Jim took time out from hosting and got his classical guitar out while John (of Burning Ballerina fame) sat in too with his electric guitar and it was all a big happy family till suddenly it was "Rub a dub dub" and time to go home.

It was a long day gigging for the muddy Boots Band but a great party in the end.
I guess I've never critiqued a wedding before! Thanks to everyone for tipping in the jar.
Congratulations again Jim and Sally.

Sep 7, 2008

Mt Baker Hill Climb Event at Glacier

James Higgins and the Muddy Boots

Mount Baker Hill Climb Event in Glacier.

Well I can't speak for Charlie, Donald, and Tree but this was my first ever gig on an active volcano. Active? Well, not really. More of a casual smoker.

The little hamlet of Glacier is the last community on the Mount Baker highway. There's a grocery store, some restaurants and maybe some other little businesses scattered about.
Fate had granted us a perfect September morning for the event and we were all up super early to get out to the mountain. Hil was taking part in the 48-mile round trip bike climb up Mt. Baker. She had organized this gig for us. The idea, I assumed, was to entertain all those hundreds of enthusiastic cyclists on their triumphant return from the summit.
We set up our gear around ten o clock in a picnic area behind the grocery store. The stage backdrop was an old railway caboose. The backdrop to that were the spectacular Cascade Mountains. Unfortunately the place was deserted when we were ready to play. Most of the riders were still on the mountain. There were only a few people milling around idly or setting up some stalls with refreshments for the returning riders. Not even the event planner was around. We had to ask folks in the grocery store if there was an electricity outlet anywhere. When we'd set up we didn't even know for sure if this was the right place. We played anyway. Finally around 1.p.m. a few cyclists had trickled in. Most of them went straight to the stall that was giving out their free goodie bags. Very soon a huge queue had formed there. It curved all the way around the perimeter of the area. No one had the slightest interest in music. They certainly weren't going to get down and boogie after a fifty mile road trip up and down Mt. Baker. I don't blame them. Still it felt very odd to be finishing off our gig just as the crowd of about 700 people rolled in. I guess it must have been tougher for the guy who was hired to play steel drums at 7 in the morning. He had to watch his entire audience disappear up the mountain and leave him all alone.
By two o clock I was red as a tomato from the midday sun and ready to call it a day. Musically we played fine but with no real enthusiasm. Some shade may have helped. The sun had sapped us dry for 3 merciless hours.
When Hil came down the mountain, she hardly looked tired at all. I guess all her training paid off. In fact she looked fresher than me. She caught the end of our gig and complimented Tree's sound check. When we finally finished up, we had a huge crowd all sitting looking expectantly at the stage. We felt guilty packing up. Perhaps though, they were just waiting for the presentation ceremony and the giving out of awards and prizes.

For us, this was yet another unadvertised and badly timed show. We must be the most anonymous band in town, yet it feels that we're out there playing all the time. There were seven hundred people out in Glacier who just missed our performance. That would have been a lot of much needed free publicity. As a busker, I should have known better: "never busk at lunch time".

On the way home, I rode with Charlie and we took a nostalgic detour onto an old property near Mosquito Lake Road that he and Chana had once owned. It had become completely overgrown but some of the buildings still remained. There was a small green cabin about the size of a caravan. Further up the hill, drowning in foliage, was a sort of yurt, artfully constructed of bottles and firewood cemented together. There was also an unfinished three sided house built of car tyres. It was roofless and frontless. The front would have been a greenhouse, all glass to allow maximum sunlight. It was built into the hillside in the classic style of a Tolkien hobbit dwelling. (Or maybe a Womble). It would have made a fine home. I got quite a tour down Charlie's memory lane. We took some pictures and drove back to the highway.

Incidentally Hil's time up to Artist Point was 2 hours and 40 minutes. Which I imagine was quite respectable. She finished in mid pack. The fastest woman clocked in at 1 hour 26 minutes. The fastest men's time was 1 hour 16 mins.

Aug 23, 2008

James Higgins and the Muddy Boots at the Brookstock Festival

James and the Muddy Boots at the Brookstock Festival.

To get straight to the point, this was a great evening. A great crowd of people, great food, great location and a great big bathtub full of beer.

This was a cosy little festival that took place at Ben and Kim's place near Ferndale. They have a couple of acres out in the sticks. There's chickens and sheep and a big Pyrenean Mountain Dog named Marley. Lot's of people had set up camp in a field at the back and there were plenty of folks jamming all afternoon. The "official" music took place in the horseshoe shaped courtyard of their cottage.

There were about a half dozen musical acts split evenly between afternoon entertainment and evening entertainment. I just caught the very tail end of the afternoon sessions, but what I heard, sounded pleasant and relaxing.

Me and the Boots kicked off the evening's music around 7:30 and it didn't take long till everyone was up boogying on down. There was plenty of positive energy coming off the crowd to inspire us to greater things and possibly power a small car. Obviously they'd been fueling up all afternoon. We played for about an hour and a half and quit while we were winning. Charlie was on fine guitar solo form which was just as well, as we tossed plenty of solos at him. We cruised through our set with a minimum of chit-chat or gaps between songs and kept everyone happily dancing as the sun went down.

There was a half hour attack of mosquitoes at dusk, but a kind lady came on stage and sprayed us all with bug repellant. This did seem to help. There was also a bat that flew out from the eaves but he didn't help much. He just flew off.

We'd reshuffled our set around a bit for this gig, inserting some of our late night material into the mix a little earlier and alternated in and out between our spookier grooves and our cheekier beats.
Again, my personal favourite song of the night was Orgone Accumulator. I just love that riff. We must have played it for 15 minutes and I didn't feel guilty about it at all. I could have played it for another fifteen. We actually met a man who had an Orgone Accumulator. Nick was his name. He was a Yorkshire man who explained that it was a healing device that used natural inner magnetics to cure aching muscles. It involved 3 empty tin cans, one inside the other and each wraped in cotton. I think you were supposed to put your hand in it and this soothed the pain away. Apparantly when people started building giant industrial sized ones in their back yards, they were declared illegal for obscure medical reasons. I think the audience may have been puffing from a few converted orgone accumulators because they were certainly very energized.

Mud seemed to have been the theme of the music this year. Mark "The Mudman" Flanders and his band played after us. Local artist Michael Costello was their frontman and they put on a great show, playing a bunch of Mark's original material. I think they called themselves, The Special Guests. Evidently politics and art can mix.
Rounding off the night came Savage Henry. They played some form of wild progressive rock with minimum vocal interference. It switched from rhythm to rhythm, riff to riff, pace to pace, melody to melody. Each piece seemed to be in small sections that constantly evolved. It was hard to tell if they were jamming or if there was a pattern. Fusion or confusion? But the crowd loved them and that's all that matters. They were out there doing it. They had youthful enthusiasm on their side and had no need of any orgone accumulators.

This festival certainly had a rejeuvenating effect on us as a band. I think The Roadside tavern gig threw us into a bit of an unexpected funk, but Brookstock quickly and effortlessly restored our faith in ourselves and flower powered hippydom. I guess it's true that a band is only as good as their last gig.

Last and certainly not least, I have to say a great big thank you to Ben and Kim for inviting us to be a part of the Brookstock Festival. It must have been quite a feat, organising and setting up the whole affair.

We had a great time whether playing or just hanging out. I can't stress enough, how much fun we had.
Thanks again.

Aug 22, 2008

James Higgins and The Muddy Boots at the Little Roodside Tavern.

James and the Boots at the Little Roadside Tavern.

This was a take it or leave it gig on a meaningless August weekend... We took it.
The place was fairly deserted, just a few folks playing cards and a few elbows hanging off the bar. We set up in the corner by the front door and used the occasion as an excuse to practice. We threw in a bunch of songs we rarely played and some new ones like Kitty Jasmine, Play for Free, and Orgone Accumulator. I reckon we must have played about three hours. I think I speak for all of us when I say that at times we were a bit uninspired and were really just going through the motions.

The song of the night for me was Orgone accumulator. It has an infectious blues riff pounding through it which just made me laugh out loud. We must have played it for about ten minutes at least. Me and Donald had practiced it a little on Wednesday but neither Charlie nor Tree had even heard of it, so it was quite an adventure.

One of the TV sets was right in my line of vision. I couldn't help but get sucked in by it, even though there was nothing of real interest to watch. First it showed a Rodeo bull riding event, then wrestling came on. Meanwhile on the other TV there were anonymous boxers knocking lumps out of each other. Sport seems to be following us at the moment. My mind really wasn't focused entirely on our music.

I think the evening left us all a bit deflated. It wasn't that we played bad or anything, In fact I think we played quite well over all. My little PA system even worked too. I guess we just had a sense of anticlimax after so many mad nights out there recently. Or were we having a collective déjà vu of been there, done it? I guess it's up to us to pack the place. Winter gigs there may prove busier.

At the end of the day there were positives. We got to practice, we played well, the PA passed the test, we got one more gig under our belt, Tree got to familiarise himself a bit more with the material, a few people even got up to dance, and we got paid a little in tips. It could have been worse. As Charlie said, at least it wasn't raining.

Aug 18, 2008

James Higgins and the Muddy Boots at the Boundary Bay

James Higgins and the Muddy Boots
At the Boundary Bay.

A small moment in time.

T'was a dark and drizzly night in the sparsely populated Boundary Bay beer garden. James Higgins and the Muddy Boots Band were on stage.
Not much to dwell on here. At first glance, the scene appears rather depressing but I think in the end we had more fun out in the empty beer garden than we'd have had inside at the packed bar, where, apparantly everyone was watching the Olympics.

It's not quite fair to describe the beer garden as empty. There was a small appreciative audience in attendance who were just visible through binoculars. These brave notables were composed of family and friends, bar staff, some dogs, and a few stragglers who had probably been looking for the Olympic TV Show. Somehow, despite the blustery sea breeze and the damp night air, we contrived to have an entertaining evening. I should mention that the stage and much of the beer garden were covered by tents with the sides rolled up. So we weren't actually getting wet, just blown about a bit.

Yet it seemed only fair that if a band is booked to play in the garden and the weather turns cold, windy and rainy, then it might be smart to move them inside. This has been the humane thing to do in the past. But not tonight. The bar was full and the herd was settled. No one wanted to disrupt their ambience. So we were told to take our musical implements outside where we could do what we wanted.
Plain and simple though, the clientele wanted to watch the Olympics. That's fair enough. I'd have said the same if it was the World Cup.
We got paid. All is forgiven.

I think the Reefnetter gig the other day sharpened us up for the Boundary Bay gig. Those few witnesses in attendance were treated to a fine show. The real losers were the viewers in the bar watching the Olympics.
Coverage of all the shattered Olympic records and broken dreams will be recycled black and blue through every media outlet world wide forever. In today's internet world of immediacy there's no need to be there and then in history. Simply replay it from any perspective, any time you want. Nowadays the proud boast of, "I was there, in the stadium", gets significantly watered down. It has been replaced and almost usurped by, "Yes I saw it…in a bar…on TV."

As the Triathalon event was unfolding in some Chinese stadium, I stood, 10,000 kilometres from home, below some restless grey northern sky with The Muddy Boots Band. We got on stage and played our wee socks off in a blaze of anonymity. A small moment in time. Unrecorded. Insignificant. No one can replay it. It exists now only in the minds of the few who were there. I doubt we'll make the Bellingham Herald but it sure was a good laugh.

So, in short. The sound man Todd set up the PA.(Gold Medal for Todd). We played for a world record fastest ever 2 hours. Todd repacked his gear in record time. The judges on the panel awarded us ten gold stars all round and declared us the best band they'd seen all night. …..And suddenly we were all standing alone in the beer garden like nothing had happened.

Gold medals for everyone.

Aug 16, 2008

James and the Muddy Boots at the Reefnetter Festival on Lummi

James Higgins and the Muddy Boots at thr Reefnet Festival on Lummi Island.

Reefnetting, as I understand it, goes like this. Two boats anchor out in the bay along a regularly traveled route of the salmon. They string a large rectangular net between them and simply wait for the salmon to swim over it. Then they haul it up and sort out the fish in a live holding pen. The wild salmon are released and the hatchery raised stock are kept. Though this method is environmentally friendly, it seems to be little used nowadays.
Reefnetting is an ancient fishing method developed by the coastal tribes. The festival was a celebration of this fact.

And so we found our selves taking the 6 minute ferry trip out to Lummi Island. We then drove around till we came to the festival grounds at Legoe Bay.
I was just getting out the car when Janice ran up all excited. "Whales in the bay, whales in the bay. Orcas!" Well I'd never seen orcas in my whole time out here in the North West, so I ran over to the beach. Unfortunately the orcas had swam off around the point. Just my luck.
A little later as I was browsing the artisan stalls, Hil ran up. "Whales in the bay. Whales in the bay. Orcas". I ran across to the beach but once again the orcas had already swam off. They may well have been paniced by the sight of my sun deprived knobbly legs. I'd forsaken jeans for shorts this day. A once a year event which ensures rain within 24 hours.
Two Orca sightings in one day and I'm right there and I missed them both times.
Third time lucky?

Anyway to the festival……

On stage as we arrived was a guitarist singer called Plum Tucker from Texas. His sound and style reminded me of an open tuning accoustic Van Morrison. I wonder if he's ever heard of Luka Bloom. As a performer, he came across as quite intense. Unlike us. We're more past-tense.
Hay bales were arranged around the stage as seating arrangements. Or maybe they were expecting a party of hungry cows to show up. Unfortunately a lot of the bales were empty. The festival organiser said only half as many people as last year had showed up. He shrugged and muttered something about the economy and the price of oil.

We went on stage around 6pm and played a one hour warm up set then took a break and then returned with our main set.
Donalds clan, now known as the H Street Singers seem to creep closer every day.
This time round, they had gotten themselves on stage with us and were dancing and singing to Spoonful and the Hens in the Henhouse song. The stage was bouncing so much that I could hardly sing into the wobbling microphone. Charlie's spare guitar got bounced right off the stage but it seemed to survive the impact.
Everyone to be believed, spoke highly of the gig. This was good news, I guess. It's hard to tell on stage what it sounds like out in the crowd. I think my guitar battery died right at the start. I never heard a note during the whole gig. Later on, Tree told me that he never hears anybody at all, ever!

Tree did appear to be having fun though, as did Charlie and Donald (and myself). I'd say the crowd enjoyed themselves too, even though no one really got excited till the very last song. I think the weather was too hot for any dance moves more strenuous than toe tapping.

All in all it was a beautiful day in a beautiful place. Too bad that most of the beach front is privately owned. Lummi Island does seem to have a different pace of life and I think the Reefnet Festival reflected this. Orcas were swimming about offshore, kids were leaping about, beer was flowing, folks were mingling, there was a big salmom bbq, folks were taking boat trips into the bay, and apparantly the music was excellent. It was a laid back kind of day. Serene and almost traffic free. We were the only noise in town. It's so easy to forget that silence is the natural sound of the world.

I had asked Mr. Plum if he'd wanted to have a jam with us (Plum jam), but the festival shut down promptly about 8:30 before it got dark. So apologies for not jamming. Maybe next time. Actually, even before we'd finished playing, folks were breaking camp and leaving. The last shuttle to the ferry had already left.

At the ferry we were first ones on. We were right up the front and so low in the water that it looked like we were driving across the sea by car. The moon was full. The night was clear and the ocean was still as a mirror. On the far shore someone was having a full scale fireworks display. It was all quite surreal and trippy.
An unusual finale to a unique day.
But right now, it's raining.

Aug 8, 2008

James and The Muddy Boots at Stuarts

James and the Muddy Boots at Stuarts Coffee Shop

This was very much a family affair with familiar faces lazing around on sofas and comfy chairs.
We set up on the wee stage in the corner where I was amused to find that the PA system was still the same old lump of a thing I'd used years ago at Stuarts on Bay Street. Still, it didn't sound as bad as I remembered it from before. Age may have mellowed it. (Or me).
Anyway the gig was very relaxed and laid back. Almost too easy. We cruised through two forty five minute sets which zipped passed. Donald's clan was in extra fine vocal form and helped us out on several choruses.
I'd say this was a fairly solid gig. We had no drums, so we were able to be a bit looser, but still tight (ish). There was a somewhat odd, dodgy moment in the middle of Traveling Bag and there was something not quite right about the song, "Mystery Train". But hey, two little mis-communications in a whole gig isn't bad. (Lucky we weren't all wearing our sunglasses.).
As individuals and musicians, I think we've all been several times round several blocks, so we kind of forget to get over upset about minor mistakes on stage. Gigs are more about fun and less about ego. We are more inclined to laugh in the moment but fix it later.
Our core set has evolved a lot since the Roadhouse gig. For the better I hope. It must be like watching your kids grow up. You never notice them change because you are so close to them every day. Suddenly you realise they are almost adults. Musically, I guess our set has matured a lot and taken a shape and direction. Personally I like the way it's ripening. I'd say we are definitely well beyond the diaper stage, but not fully grown up yet.

But who wants to grow up anyway?

Aug 6, 2008

Busking the Fairhaven Farmer's Market.

Busking at Fairhaven Farmer's Market.
August 6th

Around one o clock we (me and Donald) set up just to the left of the vacant stage at the top of the stairs. Donald plugged his bass into a wee battery powered amp and I got my guitar and blues harp out. We didn't exactly light up the market but we had ourselves a good little practice and made a few dollars. I think we should put together a busking set and work on some old time happy standards. Busking is not a time to be obscure and technical unless you've got all day to waste.
I guess in the end, it doesn't matter much what you play. It's really all about attitude and energy. Strangely enough, I've discovered over the years that the less you look like you need money, the more you'll make. I guess we must have looked desperate.

Seriously though, in the end, we had a good time and got paid to practice in the late summer sun. If only the bars were so generous. Perhaps we should practice more and gig less.

Jul 25, 2008

James and the Muddy Boots at the Boundary Bay Beer Garden.

I think I speak for the whole band when I say this was a highly enjoyable evening out under the stars. Despite playing at the tail end of the night, there was still a decent little crowd who slowly two by two began to tap their feet till everyone was suddenly up dancing.
We rattled through our set list and almost followed it exactly. Very unusual for us.

Because Tree was unavailable to play, we'd practiced a few hours before going on stage with a stand in drummer named Stephanie. She picked up everything really quick and tuned right in to the energy of the band. She breathed some fresh life into songs like Tramper Ticket and Can't Keep Me.
Big thanks Stephanie. Hope we can do it again. (No offence, Tree).

The headline act were called, "The Ian McFeron Band". They were a 4 piece group up from Seattle and their music was remeniscent of Dylan or The Band. They were quite intertaining and friendly too.
There were posters around town to advertize their imminent arrival, but the page set up made the Muddy Boots look like the headline act. The Ian McFeron band looked like an afterthought at the bottom of the page. Good for us I guess. Not so good for them. But we need all the help we can get.

Biggest pity though was that there wasn't more people in the garden. I guess it had been busier earlier but had quietened down by the time we went on.
Anyway, this was a good solid gig. I think we played for about an hour and a half. At the end, our little crowd wanted to hear more. They were shouting, "Encore" and "One more", then a voice amongst them stood out and yelled, "Don't think about it, just play the god damn Chicken Song". And so, being not proud, we played the chicken song all over again. then I got on my bike and rode back to my roost.

Jul 19, 2008

Lummi Island. The Grange.

We all had a great day out. Our families were there and the sun was shining. After the alternative universe gig at the Little Roadside Tavern last night, it was nice to be playing for a reasonably sane audience. Though we did finish before the moon arose. So who's to say what might have happened.
This was an outdoor, all ages event just a short way from the ferry port.
I guess it could be described as a sort of slightly larger scale garage sale where the locals parted with their unwanted clutter to the highest or nearest bidder. There were some artisan stalls too. It all felt quite casual and relaxed.
I spoke with a lady selling harps, whistles, ukeleles and a big, Indian droney thing that looked like an enormous wooden ladle. She gave me an interesting talk on the anatomy of the harp. It was quite intriguing. There were also people selling Rustic furniture and jewelry and there was tons of food.
There was a guy carving with a chainsaw. He slashed away for about twenty minutes on a chunk of wood. I didn't see what he carved but it was announced over the PA system that the bidding would start at 300 dollars. Not bad for twenty minutes work. I couldn't see what he carved. Maybe it was a solid gold bar.

We set up to play on a large deck where we were really able to spread out or gear a bit. Again though we suffered distortion problems with the mic. I guess that my wee PA just can't take the stress. It seems to cope with the guitars okay but I think I sing too loud for it's liking.
In general the sound was tolerable and I thought we played quite tightly. A few people got up to dance while Donald's family cheered us on.
The biggest pity was that the beer garden crowd were so far away. By the time the sound reached their ears, it had disintegrated drastically. Luckily, their brain cells were probably frying nicely too which kind of evened things out.

Time flew by and by 6pm we were all done. The whole place seemed genuinely confused and disappointed when we announced we were finished. We'd understood that we'd been scheduled to play one hour of music. Thus, we were packing up before people realized we weren't joking. Individuals began to drift hopefully towards the stage to try coax some more songs out of us. Alas too little too late. We were already half packed up before we were fully aware just how many listeners had expected the music to continue till 8pm.
Sorry about that folks.

But I think our little clans all had a great day out. We quit while we were winning. Hil and Ronan had a cycle trip round the island. Me, Charlie, Donald, and Tree played some music and I think the ladies ended up in the beer garden. The kids ran around and rummaged at random till they tired themselves out. Then they sat in the front (and only) row and cheered on their local musicians.

The organisers and artisans, cooks and volunteers were friendly and enthusiastic and gave us all the cake and coffee we could eat and drink.
Thank you for that. Maybe we'll be invited back next year. That might be nice.

Jul 18, 2008

Little Roadside Tavern

James and The Muddy Boots at the Little Roadside Tavern.

Just an ordinary night out there. Well as ordinary as it gets.
We played out in the garden as it was a beautiful evening. It sure was tricky doing a sound check while some guy was buzzing round the field next door with his mini tractor/lawn mower.
But we persevered. We turned the volume of the tractor channel down and turned up the tweet knob for the birds. That did the job nicely.
Most of the first two hours fell on deaf ears till everybody suddenly clicked into lunacy mode just as the full moon rose over the mountains.
At this point we repeated the first set and the crowd's reaction, the second time round was startling. It was like a different audience. There was chicken dancing, hooping, clapping, and big goofy grins all round. (And that was just the band). Quite a baudy hootnanny round the blazing bonfire. I guess the alcohol and meds had finally kicked in but we'll blame it on the full moon. Everyone tuned in and for the last hour it was quite an "interactive" little beer garden. Totally reminds me of Brookdorf.

Technically speaking though, We really were messing around on stage and never quite hit our stride until right towards the end. It actually felt a bit like hard work, but we did play for 4 hours. We were all guilty of some fine clangers but it's better to make the mistakes out there where the audience is so forgiving and generous.

I guess we really have to start playing a bit later out there. Around 8:30pm maybe.
Still it was a good laugh despite the chaos. Hopefully, we'll do it again.

Jul 13, 2008

Boulevard Park. Food Co-op Annual Bash

James and The Muddy Boots.

Boulevard Park is located just North of Fairhaven. It's wedged between the railway tracks and the ocean. On a map, it's a long narrow pickle (gurkin)shaped park. It offers a great view of the Islands and also stunning close ups of the railroad tracks.
A stage had been erected at the North end of the park. There was a shady spot set up for the instruments but no shade on stage for the entertainment. I bet there were a lot of sunburnt musicians afterwards.
The Co-op bash was a real family event. The park was fairly packed and there was a relaxed festival atmosphere.
We played at 3:30 for an hour during which time we saw a three legged race, a sack race and a tug of war for peace. (Pull For Peace). All this took place right in front of the stage which gave us ringside, bird's eye views of the whole shebang.
I don't think anybody knows who won the sack race or the 3 legged race but the Pull For Peace was won by Donald's family with just a little help from about 30 other people. Janice was very proud. And rightly so. There will now be peace.
We were playing Enjara as they pulled for peace. It seemed an appropriate song though I'm sure it's significance got blown right out to sea.
Our hour flew past and I feel we played quite tight. The wind blew the sound around a bit but we survived. It was nice of Jason to show up with some percussion. He just slotted right in.
I think we only played about 10 songs in all. Short and sweet.
My favourites of the day personally, were "Blowing down the River", which I felt clicked today.
"Spoonful" went well too. That is such a great blues to play. I think we all have our own little spooky nook in that song.
"Enjara", bounced along nicely. The "Hens in the Henhouse", was as bizarre as ever.
I enjoyed this gig.
After us, I saw Yan's band, The Monday Night Project setting up. I heard a few songs but poor wee Ronan was exhausted so we skimmed some stones and headed off home.

Did I mention that the weather was a bit soapy bubbly? An unusual form of precipitation but much better than acid rain.

Jul 11, 2008

James and The Muddy Boots at the Lettered Streets Cafe.

Thankfully Donald has a large clan. If it wasn't for their enthusiastic presence we would have been practically alone in the cafe.
Later on Hil and Ronan showed up too. The waitresses seemed to enjoy our distraction as they hadn't much else to do but sit around and listen.
As it was such a small venue, we didn't play with a drummer. So it was just me, Charlie and Donald with our guitars.
Despite the lack of audience, we had a pleasant night. We were able to practice a bunch of songs and Charlie kindly bought one of my CDs.
I had an odd flashback when we played "Spoonful", by Willie Dixon. It brought me way back to when I was about 10 years old. There was a very old man in our village called Willie Dickson who went shopping every morning as I was going to school. He was tall and skinny as a pole. He wore a long grey tweedy coat, a flat cap on his head and carried a brown weather beaten leather bag in hand. He'd walk in slow motion past my front gate on his way up to the shops as I was leaving the house. In the late afternoon he'd be heading back home as I bolted out of the school classroom. Willie would be shuffling along with tiny wee steps. He'd have covered a distance of about a kilometer in about 7 hours. Still...He was out there doing it.
Willie's wife was called Daisy Dickson. She was always leaning out her window or pruning a big bush in their small front garden. There were those in the village who had their doubts about Daisy's sanity. But if they taunted her, she would quickly yell out from behind her bush, "You all think I'm nuts, but I'm not. I've got a certificate to prove it." Poor auld Daisy Dickson.

Oddly enough, blues man Willie Dixon's mother was also called Daisy.

Jul 10, 2008

Whiskey galore at Elizabeth Park, Bellingham.

A beautiful summer evening for an outdoor concert. Elizabeth Park isn't far North of Downtown Bellingham. It's a pleasant square patch of greenery in a quiet neighbourhood. It has some lovely old shade trees, notably some beech trees which always remind me of my village of Neilston.

We set up in the bandstand which surely must be the biggest stage we ever played on. There was actually space to swing a bass guitar. A large crowd of about 700 people had assembled. Lots of families with kids, older generations, and courting couples. The complete spectrum of life.
Our first set went well with plenty of energy and drive, but it felt that we lost our momentum in the 2nd half.
The crowd appeared to be enjoying it though and most stayed till the end and indulged in periodic bouts of jigging around the bandstand.
The big moral of the story is that Whiskey Galore need another half dozen songs to attain a solid two hours of music.
This gig would seem to be Electric Erik's last gig that he and I shall share stage together unless I miraculously can make it to the Highland Games gig. Erik is off on a new musical direction. So all the best Erik.

Jul 5, 2008

Whiskey Galore at the Comet in Seattle

Me, Donald, Tree and Electric Erik went down in Hil's VW bus.
We were told to be there by 9 PM but when we arrived not much was going on. We were to be the second act on the bill. This was good news as it meant we could be back home reasonably early. But after hanging around for a while out on Pike Street, we were told we would be going on third. That meant we wouldn't start till about 11pm. Two hours of hanging about. I decided to go exploring. The streets were busy. It was a beautiful summer's night and the town was buzzing with all kinds of colourful characters. I imagine Seattle is a difficult town to stand out in.
East Pike Street kind of reminds me of Schwabing in Munich. Loads of cafes, bars and clubs but not really on the tourist route.
Well I had plenty of time to walk the length of it. Well a fair chunk of it. I reckon I put a few miles in. By the time I got back, Galore were still hanging around outside. A hotdog stand had magically materialised on the Comet corner. The streets were getting even busier. Mr Hotdog was doing a roaring trade, selling Cream Cheeze Hot Dogs. I'd never heard of that mix, but the people were chomping them down.
Across the street there was a yellow car trying to fit into a parking space that had barely 2 inches to spare. The car bumped the car in front then alternatively the car behind till it was in the space. Suddenly there's Donald yelling across the street. "You hit my car. We'll settle out of court. Gimme 20 dollars." The driver looks bemused. He obviously doesn't believe Donald but he can't walk away either. Donald crosses the street and goes through all the motions of inspecting "his" car for damage. In the end he crosses back as poor as when he went over.
Little Eric Accordion meanwhile is on his 3rd whiskey when we learn that we will be going on last. The band calls a meeting and on a 4-2 majority, we vote to go back to Bellingham. Matt is understandably upset and demands a recount to no avail. He has friends who have been waiting all night to hear Galore play. He goes off to do some last ditch negociating.
The third act, a punkish guitarist who plays a small drum kit, agrees to shorten his set. We reluctantly agree to stay and play. Around midnight we are on stage. Well most of us. On hearing we were about to go home, Donald had quickly drank the 2 last beers he was due as a musician. They went straight to his head. At one point he was tuning his mandolin right beside me on stage, next I look up and he's gone. We are in mid song (Drops). I look around and there he is sitting in the front row, smiling at us. Matt goes over and croons in his eyes then kicks him back on stage.
The gig section of the trip was short but fairly sweet. I feel we played fine.
It's a pity to travel for about 3 hours, covering a distance of about 180 miles round trip, then only play for a half hour or so. Nine hours had elapsed from when we left home till we returned.
As for payment.... jeez. I think I'll open a hot dog stand.

Jun 30, 2008

Fairhaven Martini Bar

James and The Muddy Boots

They were having an open mike night, so we decided to drop by and play a few tunes.
At 9pm the place was fairly dead but we took to the stage anyway. We were the the 2nd act.
We rattled through, Baby please don't go, and Blowing down the River, without incident but half way through, The Hens in the Henhouse, Donald was called away by the fire department on a family emergency. The gig ended abruptly in mid song. Family takes priority over all else.
Maybe we'll go back another time.
Thankfully the emergency got resolved.

Jun 28, 2008

Return to the Little Roadside Tavern

A scorcher of a day out at Nugents corner. Another biker rally. This time we played out in the beer garden but we seemed to have started just as the rally ended and all the bikes roared off. We played for about 4 hours and had a blast anyway. Those who hung around seemed to be enjoying themselves.
This is a fun venue to play. The locals are almost part of the act. there's a lot of baudy banter back and forth and everybody seems to know each other. It really reminds me of playing at Brookdorf outside of Regensburg.
Musically, I think we were on good form. Charlie was in fine solo mode, Jason got really into his drums and The Donald kept it all together using his copious printed, alphabetically organised notes and some fine bass playing. We were using my PA this time for some instruments. The first 2 songs were really distorted but with a bit of rewiring, reconnecting, and a few tazar jolts. it all got worked out.
We seemed to play a lot of blues during this gig. Dust my Broom, It Hurts Me Too, Long Gone, All By Myself, Let's Work Together, Rockin All over The World, Baby Please Don't go, Spoonful, and probably a few more. We're not normally quite that bluesy but it's a bluesy kind of place.
We also had a lot of fun playing with the little video camera and trying to get some material together about the Mount Baker Highway tour. Plenty of tomfoolery and hilarity on film but no music. We won't be off to the Cannes Film festival quite yet and I don't think there will be any Oscars in the mail.
And for alphabetic people, I recommend that this gig be filed under "F". Not "F" for F***ed up, but under "F" for fun. And that's what it's all about.

Jun 25, 2008

BIMA night. Wild Buffalo.

James and The Muddy Boots at the BIMA Showcase at the Wild Buffalo.

With all those singer songwriter individuals recently sprouting band members, I figured I'd bring a band too.
Me, Donald and Charlie were scheduled to play at 9:15 but right on time and out of the blue, Jason showed up with his drum. It was great to have him sit in.
A few nights ago we had a practice in the cabin. Jason had his whole drum kit there and we all really had a great evening. Jason has to take time off from musical duties for a while. Though I hardly knew him, I miss him and his stomp already. I can easily see how he played an important part in The Muddy Boots soul (excuse the pun). With Felix and Jason's departure, I guess the Boots are having to reinvent themselves.
Hope I can help.
So we all got up on stage and did our bit. We played, Blowing down the River, Henhouse, and Enjara. We had kind of a dodgy soundcheck. Par for the course. You'd imagine it would be difficult to mess a soundcheck up that quick. But there ye go. Perhaps it was just the monitors.
I think we are a band who need a few warm up songs to get into our groove. The showcase doesn't really allow for that luxury. The parachute either opens or it doesn't.
Half way through the first song, I realized we were in danger of lapsing into a jam. With these short "elevator pitch", sets, songs really have to be clipped or people tune out.
By 9:30pm, the general consensus was that fun was had. Everybody cheered and we all went home. That's all I need to hear.

Jun 7, 2008

Little Roadside Tavern

James and The Muddy Boots

Biker’s Picnic at The Little Roadside Tavern

The little Roadside Tavern is just past the Nooksack Bridge at Nugent’s Corner. I guess it’s the first real bar you come to as you enter the Cascade Mountains. From the car park I found myself looking north up at Sumas Mountain and east up the Mount Baker Highway. I must have gone past this little hole in the wall place a million times without paying it much attention. And now here I was unpacking my guitar and getting ready for a gig with The Muddy Boots Band. Felix had gone off on walkabout, so I was filling in and keeping his seat warm. We really had no idea how this gig would go but lucky for us, the crowd was easily pleased.

Considering that me and the Boots had only had about two practices, (a left footed one and a right footed one), we kept it pretty solid. Sure we were understandably loose but I doubt anyone would have guessed that this was our very first gig together. All credit must go to Mr. Tree, Charlie, and The Donald for some nifty quick thinking improvisation.
In the end we pleasantly surprised ourselves. Not just because we got through most of the material with a minimum of painful mistakes, but also because we played for about 4 hours. We’d only intended to play for 2 hours. What a luxury to have a second guitarist. It really filled out the sound (and the song length) and allowed so much more freedom. And it’s very convenient for covering my clunkers.

In retrospect, we probably should have set up out back in the beer garden as that’s where the majority of the crowd was hanging out round a big bonfire. Instead we set up indoors, which as it turned out was great fun anyway and less hassle, though it wasn’t so busy. Fair play to the diehards who stayed with us. They appeared to have had a ball.
They were happy, dancing, singing and beer guzzling.
Meanwhile out in the car park, the discussion was all about bikes. It seems you just have to say “spanner” to a biker and you are best of friends. Motorbikes of all breeds, species, color and creed were lined up outside like horses at a hitching post. Harleys would roar to life every few minutes and exhaust fumes would come belching through the front door. At first I was thinking the noise was coming from our amps. It took me a while to figure it out. Actually maybe the mics picked it up and it really was coming through the amps. The exhaust fumes were probably coming from our amps too!

Somewhere in the middle of the gig a mystery slide guitarist set up too. He just kind of plugged in, turned it up extra loud, and jumped in. I think his name was Wishbone Wilson or something. His guitar was covered in autographs. I saw him show them to Donald in the middle of a song. Donald was looking confused. Later on, he was laughing and telling us that he wasn’t sure if they were famous people’s signatures or if he wanted him to sign it too. Mr. Wilson played some mean slide but he kind of drowned out Charlie which was a shame. It felt like the crowd were enjoyed the jam so Charlie just let him rip, but still managed to squeeze a solo or two into any rare gaps in the mans act.
Now that I think on it, there was a mystery bass player too. I believe his name was James. He played a couple of songs and then was gone. He didn’t say much.
Not much more to add really, except that I think we left the gig with a positive, enthusiastic attitude. Not many negatives to dwell on. A bigger crowd would have been nicer but the size we had was friendly. The sound check wasn’t too bad but I think I’ll use my wee PA next time for my guitar, instead of my little emergency amp I employed this time.

The Lasting Moment’s Award of the night must go to Donald’s wife, Janice. Her two quotes will surely be immortalized. “Keep playing that dark bluesy shit boys”. And throughout the night she’d pipe up at the end of each song, “Play another one… Just like that last one.”

That’s good enough for me.

A fine picnic.

May 30, 2008

Woburn Bellingham

Whiskey Galore Entertain the Troops.

I guess this party was both a welcome back and a fare thee well. One soldier came home safe, while another soldier prepared to ship out.

We played the gig and to be honest, nothing really happened. It all went past too quick. The people had a great night. There was dancing and singing and whooping. occasionally a "volunteer" was gang wrestled to the keg and held upside down and forced to drink.
I suspect that if this had been in Glasgow, a few folks would have had to be wrestled back off the keg.

The hosts were appreciative and generous and I think everyone enjoyed the gig in their own way. I hope the neighbours enjoyed it.

Did I imagine it or were we extra loud? Some of the treblier sounds of the evening were actually painful.
But overall, a very enjoyable night with no real complications.

Best of luck lads.

May 3, 2008

Whiskey Galore at the Funhouse. Seattle.

Whiskey Galore at the Funhouse. May 2008.

The big question on the drive down to Seattle was, would a monkey count as a passenger in the commuter lane? After all, Chimps are just a gene short of humanity. But then, so are a lot of the folks I know.

Into The Funhouse we go.

An oddball assemblage of riff raff, indulging in a grab bag jumble of fashions formed tonight’s audience. The dance floor area was a shifting mosaic of Doc Martin boots, spiked heels and spiked hair, all shuffling around on the grubby chessboard floor tiles. There were false moustaches and punk, metallic hippies with green hair and fur collars. Lips and and lobes and belly buttons strung with earrings and piercings were bumping and grinding on the pool table while the game continued. I saw no monkeys but I felt this was potentially a congregation with a few genes missing. Quite refreshing actually. In other words, “freaks”. My favourite crowd.

Being a Saturday night gig, the Funhouse was a lot busier than the last time we were there. The bar hadn’t changed except there was an outside drinking area too, which provided some fresh air and a break from the grim interior but little respite from the volume of the thunderous P.A. music. The blood red curtain forming the backdrop of the stage still made me feel like we were playing inside a coffin. We always play such dim lit bars.

A one man heavy metal band was the opening act. Keg was his name and he spouted a lot of beer around on stage as part of his show. He was spraying kinda like a fire eater without a match. But who needs a match when you can electrocute yourself?
It looked like his proud parents were his roadies. Mummy and Daddy Keg had the air of Florida golf club retirees, complete with Greasian 2000, soft soled shoes, and starched baseball caps. They seemed so calamitously out of place that they fitted right in. In the semi darkness, I read the logos on their identical fresh ironed sweat shirts: “Team Shitfaced”. Then I realized that perhaps they were the anarchists, effortlessly leaving us lesser rebels humbled in their wake.
Keg Junior was interesting to watch too as he frantically programmed drum beats and posed with his Flying Vee guitar. He high kicked his height so much that I thought he was doing the Can Can. All exciting stuff, and to be honest, the crowd seemed to quite enjoy his show. But he wasn’t exactly my personal cup of tea. All I can say is, “At least he was out there doing it.”
After Keg finished his set and the stage got mopped, we went on and played for about an hour, keeping it mainly up tempo. From where I stood, it sounded like we pounded along quite tightly. The sound check wasn’t too bad either, though it’s always impossible to tell for sure. The audience seemed appreciative though their concentration and commitment to the cause wavered at times during the set. I think they couldn’t decide whether we were punk rockers or folkies. I’m not sure either. I’ll need to ask Matt.

Tonight I tested my new fret board markings that I’d put on the back of the bass neck to mark the 5th and 7th frets. It was a big success. As I mentioned earlier, these dive bars are just so dark. The last gig we played, I was just making instinctive guesses as to where to place my fingers. (And they weren’t always accurate). I was slurring my notes.

This was about my 5th gig with the lads but I feel that I’m only now just beginning to relax a bit with the songs and get the hang of Whiskey Galore. In the past few weeks I’ve worked on some slightly more interesting bass runs to help fill out the meager arrangements I’ve been employing to date. I didn’t over experiment this time round but I’ll keep tinkering with them off stage.
I enjoyed this gig a lot: The trip down to Seattle from Bellingham gave it a sense of occasion. There was fine music on stage and a tasty camembert/pate sandwich on the way home. Oh the simple things in life. Every tune we played was a load of fun. Maybe that’s why it’s called The Funhouse.

After the gig, a girl came into the back stage area as I was packing up. She looked in the ice bucket and pulled out a can of beer.
“Are you really from Scotland”, she asked.
“Uhu”. I said.
“Do you know Billy Boyd?”
“The actor?”
“Yes.”
“I know of him but I don’t personally know him.”
“Oh wow. You really do have an accent”.
“I guess so”.
“Well if you see Billy, tell him I love him”.

There were 2 more bands after us. One was called, “Stay Tuned”. They played heavy metal versions of TV theme songs. We had to leave before they started. I imagine they’d have been a hoot to hear. The 4th band, I know nothing about.

On the way home we stopped halfway for Erik, (driving) to get ten minutes shut eye. Back on the highway we discussed the feasibility of drive through gambling. Place your bet at the window, drive to next window where you hand over your money and the server pockets it and says, “You lose. Have a nice day”. The concept could prove to be a big success with spur of the moment gamblers but unhealthy for people prone to road rage. It could also be harmful for those in the commuter lane with compulsive high rolling monkeys in the back seats.

Anyway, in my opinion, this was a good gig. Good honest fun in the Fun House.

Mar 17, 2008

Solo gig at Boundary Bay Brew Pub. Bellingham.

Boundary Bay
St Paddy’s Afternoon Gig

My gigs at the Boundary Bay Brew Pub have traditionally been plagued by misfortune. One time my guitar battery suddenly fizzled out and died on stage, forcing me to redo the sound check in mid gig and use a microphone. On another occasion, rain stopped play out in the beer garden. Three times, I turned up with a nasty cold. But this time round, despite a wee sniffle, I had a pleasant enough gig.
The tap room furniture had been rearranged to cope with the expected Paddy’s Day crowd. Long trestle tables and benches replaced the usual tables and chairs. A small wobbly stage had been set up in one corner and though the room wasn’t jammed, there was a lively enough buzz about the place. The real entertainment was scheduled for the evening. I was just an afternoon sideshow distraction for the lunch hour crowd.
I made a few adjustments to my usual Paddy’s gig format. I didn’t want to induce indigestion for those ploughing through their first ever close encounter with cabbage and corned beef. Thus I toned down the real rabble rousing songs and threw in some extra ballads such as Black is the Colour, and Fiddler’s Green. I also skipped the more blood thirsty Scottish teeth gnashers like The Ha’s O Cromdale.
The gig was only an hour long, so I had plenty of leeway to pick and chose mainly songs that I enjoyed playing. I kicked off with, The Star of the County Down and meandered through an assortment of my more melodic offerings like Jock Stewart and The Wild Mountain Tyme.
As far as I know no one vomited. That’s always a good sign.
Each table was set with a pile of green plastic bowler hats. Probably for the plastic Paddies. Thankfully I didn’t notice any of those cardboard cutout leprechauns: You know the ones with the jiggy legs, perma-grin, and the ginger Amish beard who seem to breed around St Patrick’s Day.
I remember in Germany as Paddy’s Night approached, (Yes there’s Paddy’s Night in Germany too) more and more of these wee guys kept cropping up. They were in every Irish bar I played in. Perhaps there was actually just the one guy who was following me up and down the country. Every time I ordered a beer, there he was on the wall behind the bar. Whenever I entered an Irish pub, he was already in the hall to greet me, or in the toilets staring back at me from above the urinals. He’d hover over me on stage, laughing with that evil Chucky smirk, flaunting his pot of gold in my face. He really began to tire me.
One year when Pat’s Night was finally over, I procured one of these leprechauns from the Irish Harp in Regensburg and he was subsequently employed as a target in an archery tournament. We secured him to a large pine tree, deep in the Bayerish Forest where by nightfall he jeered no more. The last time I saw his face, he was still grinning, but his expression had become a little strained.
Anyway, The Boundary Bay gig went fine. No avenging leprechauns leapt on stage and beat me with shelaileys. Best of all I was home by 2pm instead of 2am.

And in case you ever want to go to The Boundary Bay.

The boundary Bay Brew Pub has a kind of studenty atmosphere. It’s a family friendly bar/restaurant, without too much overpowering TV. Somehow the place always feels animated even when it’s quiet. Perhaps it’s the clumping of feet on the old wooden floorboards mixed with the scraping of chairs and the background clatter from the kitchen.
The Boundary Bay has a decent enough and reasonably priced menu which includes snacks such as Ralph’s Bavarian Pretzels (hello Ralph). The walls feature constantly changing art exhibitions from local artists. Live music is also a regular feature and the place can be fairly hopping in the evenings.
Talking of hopping… a word too about their home brew. I’ve drank a lot of beer in the USA and I cannot recall a better one than the Reefnetter that comes out of their beer machine. Here I must say that I am not biased or sentimental about the Boundary Bay. I have no special ties to it. I pop in for a coffee now and again and play the rare gig there. Still I do believe the Reefnetter is the number one tasting beer I have encountered in ten years in the US.
So there ye go. Credit where it’s due.

Mar 17, 2008

Mulleady's in Seattle.

Whiskey Galore at Mulleady’s in Seattle.
Paddy’s Night.

Walking into the packed interior of Mulleady’s Irish Bar on Saint Patrick’s Night, I knew I’d come to the right place. Bag pipes were wailing, people were whooping and yelling, cameras were flashing and drums were a-drumming. I knew this was going to be a great night.
Mulleady’s was dark. Not only because of the low lighting, but also, every surface was painted black. (Cue Rolling Stones song) Tables, chairs, floor, ceiling, and walls. All jet black. I think some of the people may have been painted black too. At first, all that I could see were silhouettes and the heads of Guinness pints bobbing in the air, then slowly, the reassuring sight of the bar at the far end floated into focus. Thus, after taking some bearings, I plunged into darkest Mulleady’s in search of the stage.
The sound check was as temperamental as ever but what do you expect when you start setting up while a troupe of Highland bagpipers and a drummer are deafening the house. It was like doing a sound check at a Scotland versus England football match. Fortunately the pipers cleared out before we started our gig.
The first set in particular we played with real drive and high energy. The, no doubt, well oiled, crowd were having a blast and their excitement obviously rubbed straight on to us. There was plenty of dancing and singing and beer swigging. And that was just on stage. How we managed to cram ourselves onto that tiny podium and play without poking each other’s eyes out with our implements, I don’t know. Thankfully nobody played the violin.
Of all the gigs I’ve played with Whiskey Galore I’d say this was the most fun, even though things were a bit chaotic. We were fairly drowned out by the audience. I hardly heard a word that Matt sang all evening. A few songs had begun before I even noticed. I don’t believe I heard a note from the banjo all night even though Reuben was standing right beside me. On The Wild Colonial Boy, I was wondering if I imagined that the only lyrics I heard over and over again were the distant words, “Wild colonial Boy, Wild Colonial Boy, Wild Colonial Boy”. As for Mcalpine’s Fusiliers, I completely gave up trying to figure what bit we were at and just shrugged.
There’d been a lighthearted, professional enthusiasm to our playing throughout the night, perhaps because Paddy’s Night is the one evening a year when musicians are forgiven for their on stage sins. Just as well for us.
Which leads us nicely on to my classic bass mistake of the evening.
The song “Drops”, is a kind of a drinking ballad in the Pogues' tradition. It’s quite a long song with an extended instrumental at the end. I was busy congratulating myself that I was progressing miraculously through this song for the first time ever without a mistake when a camera flashed right in my face. Suddenly an innocent A minor chord morphed into an ugly unwelcome A Sharp. For one brief second I was the centre of the universe. The whole band turned and looked around like I’d just scraped my fingers down a blackboard. It was so comically serious that I actually laughed.
But all is forgiven, right? It’s Paddy’s Night.
When all is said and done though, I do think that we all played pretty good. I seem to have put the emphasis on all that went wrong, but that’s mostly because those moments are far more entertaining to write about. I think we played quite tight. From what I could hear, any mistakes were generally random errors. Not the kind that happen because we don’t know the song, but the sort that just occur from a momentary lapse in concentration caused by an outside influence, such as it being too dark to see, or alcohol, or jostling, or a sudden camera flashing in the eyes.

Mulleady’s seemed like a decent looking place. I’d read some reviews of it which hadn’t been complimentary. With its dark wooden walls and big stone fireplace, I imagine on a less frantic evening, it might offer a more intimate atmosphere, but I suspect that it’s a generally rowdy place. There was an upstairs section too but I never got that far. Looking up at it through the smoke hole in the middle of the ceiling, gave me a feeling of playing at the bottom of a well.
The actual Mulleady’s building was situated in a residential neighbourhood (I don’t know which one. Is there one called, Magnolia? Or Mongolia?) It seemed somewhat out of place amongst the little houses and gardens. There was even a church across the street where those other die-hard St Patrick fans can gather to celebrate his big day.

And that was St Patrick’s night over for another year.
Amen.

Feb 1, 2008

Lettered Streets Cafe

Billed as The Mad Haggis versus Mudman Flanders, this gig sounded like some kind of boxing match. Perhaps that was what drew the crowd in.
I don't know if the audience were looking for blood or for music but by 7pm, the little place was jammed.
It was at this point when me and Mr Mud had been backed into a corner, that I was thinking, maybe we should have practiced. Not to be phased, we ploughed ahead into the first song, Bang Bang, by Mark. A cheerful wee number about drive by shootings. Guaranteed to get everyone up dancing, I can tell ya.
Turned out to be a real pleasant night. The crowd were friendly and had come not for blood but for folk music.
We traded songs for almost two hours in a cosy intimate atmosphere. The evening flew past.
I think that Mark and I both share similar opinions on the same subject matters, but our natural writing styles contrast completely. My style seems almost lyrically threadbare besides Mark's multi layers of political impressionism. Yet we often say the same things but from different angles.
Afterwards, People didn't all just shuffle off into the night. I think most were The Mudmans friends. Many hung around to talk. The barristas said they'd love to host more musical events in the future, even though that would mean working late.

It's comforting to know that there are still pleasant little gigs floating around out there, appearing from nowhere like warm lights in dark forests. Concerts where people come and sit and listen to what you have to say are rare at the lower end of the pay scale.

I've spent so much of my musical career in Irish pubs, where if the punters aren't drinking, then you're fired. Irish bars are not artistically friendly venues. Generally they are places where people go to get smashed and listen to a drunk guy on stage butchering the familiar hits of the day through a stone age P.A. system. Original material isn't encouraged as this could tamper with the drinkers' rythme. Frequently the din of the clientelle far exceeded the power of the amplification. I would play entire gigs without hearing a note through the speakers. I'd be extremely hoarse for the next week. The floors were often so sticky with spilt guinness that if you stood still too long you'd have to peel your shoes free. The microphones always stank of cheap toxic garlic spread, in fact even the feedback smelled like garlic spread.
Not an atmosphere to be at ones artistic best.

The Lettered Street Coffee Shop was not like that. One reason being that we played unplugged. So there were no amplifier issues to deal with. We just tuned up and started playing. I felt more like we were playing in someone's home. The people were appreciative and there was some fun banter. We played all original songs except for a stereo rendition of Bob Dylan's, Subterranean Homesick Blues to bring the evening to a close.
In the end there was a happy (and generous) audience, happy bar staff, and happy musicians.
Yup. Sounds like a great night was had by one and all.
And no garlic.

Jan 30, 2008

Wild buffalo. BIMA/Songsalive showcase

I swear the bands are getting bigger every month. On the first nights of this event, I think the acts were mainly solo or duets, but now it seems everyone has a backing group.
I must say that the evening has a consistently high standard of music. It is always varied and there are surprises every week. Unfortunately for this blurb, I can never remember the names of the bands who turn up. Most of them fly below the mainstream Bellingham radar.
The David Weisse Band came on around 8:45pm. They intertained us with some fine Santana style music. Next up were The Otters, playing their own brand of speakeasy jazz.
Then it was my turn. I bashed out my three originals and was back at the bar by 9:30. The band who followed me were having a CD release party. Their name escapes me too, but musically, they reminded me a little of the Talking Heads gone all ,"Oh Brother Where Art Thou".
I would have liked to hang out to hear one more act but it was time to go and relieve the babysitter.

These showcases really are a very under estimated event. Even if I wasn't playing, I think I would still go to check it out.
Free entry to hear about 12 live acts. That's a good deal.

 

Jan 18, 2008

Whiskey Galore at Hot Shots

Hot Shots. January 18 2008

I'd never been to Hot Shots before. It had the feel of a rundown disco or a dying night club. Not really my kind of place. It definately had the highest ceiling of any bar in town. Their stage was fairly large and about 3 feet high. Just big enough for us all to squeeze aboard.

A decent enough gig. Some very strange crackling sounds somewhere in the wiring kept us puzzled all night. It was sort of distracting when you are trying to play in time. The venue was sparcely populated but there was still a friendly ambience. "Subdued excitement", I believe they call it in Bellingham.

There were 3 bands on the menu but due to a change the schedule, Felix and The Boots had already finished when I arrived. Which was a shame because I always enjoy their shows.
The Wright Brothers were next. They were all dressed like fighter pilots. Goggles, flying hats, flight suits. Not sure what they were singing about as it was all in a Heavy metal dialect. I only caught the occasional syllable. Good music for a kamikazi mission.

All in all, a run of the mill gig. No great heights and no disasters.

 

Jan 9, 2008

Whiskey Galore at The Comet. Seattle

A fine gig and a great evening.
Most of us went down in a hired van with The Felix Sonnyboy and the Muddy Boots Band. On arrival we discovered that they played first and we played last. Not a good situation as this was going to lead to a lot of hanging about for both bands.
The Muddy Boots kicked off around 9pm. Two more bands followed before we finally took the stage around midnight. By then a lot of beer had been sloshed and a rauchous party atmosphere was well under way.
The sound check was a bit murky but fortunately we were blessed with an equally murky audience who were there to party and not to be music critics.
The Comet itself reminded me a bit like the Seoben in Schwabing in Munich except bigger. One half of the bar was a well stomped dance floor. The other half was a long bar counter with red bar stools screwed firmly into the planet. The high ceiling was decorated with dollar bills attached by bubble gum. Apparently at some historic moment in Washington State's past, the Comet was voted Seattle's number one dive bar. For sure, any bar that uses human saliva in its ceiling decor deserves that honour. The men's toilet cubicles looked like horse stalls and the urinal looked like a pig trough or a bath tub. But the Comet does have character. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of dive bars, just not a fan of dive toilets.
The Comet's menu is easy to remember. Alcahol or nothing. But instead of indulging my 2 free drink vouchers, I went for a pleasant walk round the block with the Muddy Boots Band. We enjoyed some fresh air and a close up view at Seattle, dripping in the rain.
The Comet's clientelle themselves varied from young punks and hippies to a slightly older generation who probably once had been punks and hippies in another lifetime.

Each of the four bands had their own unique energy which kept the crowd engaged and involved right till closing time.
Felix Sonnyboy and the Muddy Boots got off to a flying start with some uptempo ragtime blues, which led nicely into the Jesus Chords with their Crazy horse meets lost lobos meets Louis armstrong approach. They finished off with a great version of Saint James's Infirmary.
Trenchmouth were next, and it was caution to the wind. An unabashed brazen whiskey singalong of some classic Irish stuff which the home crowd lapped up. Stripped to the gritty bone and fueled on pure alcahol and a sense of humour, Trenchmouth burst with youthful, punk rocking enthusiasm. Jock Stewart himself would have bought them a round and given his dog a mohawk.
A tough wee act to follow considering all they had was a bouron, a dodgy guitar and a fiddle.
Luckily for whiskey galore, the audience still had enough residual energy left over from their Trenchmouth experience to share it with us.
We played about 45 minutes and judging by the happy faces on the dance floor, we kept the party atmosphere rocking right till the bar staff kicked us out at closing time.
And if we struck a few confused (but fixable) notes...well who really cared.
All in all an enjoyable night. Got back to Bellingham around four in the morning.
A long day but a lot of fun.

 

Dec 22, 2007

Last allied Arts gig for this year Bellingham

A two o clock kick off today.
The hour flew past. I tried out a few unusual tunes and quite enjoyed myself. I even got Christmassy for a minute at the end, singing Little Drummer Boy with some much appreciated help from Leslie from Mocking Bird.
That was my third and final appearance at the Allied Arts for this year. Over all, they were fun gigs though somewhat low key and anonymous. Luckily I'm a low key anonymous kind of guy.

 

Dec 8, 2007

Allied Arts Fair. Downtown Bellingham.

Pleasant wee gig. It's in a supermarket sized space where stalls and booths are set up by local artists to show off their wares. There's all kinds of stuff for sale. Jewelry, hats, paintings and pottery.
I sit on a wee stage in the corner and play a bunch of my spooky favourites for an hour. I don't even bother using the PA. I may not be very Christmassy but I'm not too painful on the ears either. The gig doesn't pay anything but there are worse things to do on a frosty winter afternoon.

I think this fair could benefit from the actual artisans being around to add some atmosphere to the proceedings. They set up shop and head off. The actual selling is done by cashiers by the front door.
Sometimes I feel that I'm playing to an audience of undercover store detectives.

 

Nov 1, 2007

The Fun House. Seattle

This was my first gig with Whiskey galore, a band of musicians that I didn't know existed 6 weeks ago. I enjoyed the evening. It was a laugh. Some mild sound issues all around but in general the band felt solid. Very Pogue-esque. It was good to see some nervous energy converted into the adrenalin which is naturally missing from the stark atmosphere of practicing in a garage.
All in all it was very positive. More audience would have been nice.

Pre gig, Donald, the mandolin player, was lying in the carpark taking photos of the Space Needle when the police drove slowly by. They kind of looked down at him, more from curiousity than for arresting purposes, then trawled on by. Most likely they mistook him for a large possum wearing a bow tie and shooting some holiday snaps. ("Here's me playing dead at the Space Needle"). Most likely they just thought it was another musician in the gutter.
Personally from a new bass players point of view, I played fine and in time. I didn't so much make mistakes as just skimmed over the occasional note I wasn't sure of. As my Mother says, "If you have nothing good to say then don't say it." Hopefully I didn't botch things up too bad. Not easy being the new guy on the totem pole.

The song "Drops" is almost within my grasp. Just two wee shaky bits stand in my way. I'll just keep plugging away. I guess it's a matter of familiarity.

It makes an amazing difference to play in a band and only have one job to do. The Rustix were great fun but we were only 3 guys, which meant that I was playing accoustic guitar plus lead and vocals and harmonica and cazumpet. So we were kind of like a drummer, a bass player and an octopus.
With Whiskey Galore I play the bass. It's plain and simple.
It's great to play with musicians who seem to put effort into their arrangements and practicing. When I was playing with "Izzy Skint" in Bavaria, I think we had about two practices in two years. One on the Monday and one on the Tuesday. Whiskey Galore are akin to a semi sensible Izzy Skint. Or at least compos mentis.

Gotta go.

 

Sep 5, 2007

Fairhaven Farmer's Market Fairhaven/Bellingham WA

Weather permitting this should be another happy hoolahooping afternoon of late summer intertainment on the village green.
There is a always a friendly buzz around the square and the vendors are very appreciative of the music.
The whole of Fairhaven has the feel of a little festival.
Walkers and chatters are out in force, creating a sociable and colouful event.
I do like sociable gigs.

 

Aug 29, 2007

Wild Buffalo Bellingham WA

BIMA Showcase.

A fifteen minute gig amidst an evening of other fifteen minute gigs.
A great evening for meeting fellow musicians.