January 21 2015
The Mudman showed up on my doorstep today. I hadn’t seen him in 3 years. He’d moved to Seattle around the same time I moved back to Europe.
Well it was good to see him again. Before I knew it, he’d talked me into doing a set together at the Honeymoon.
Sign up time was at 5pm. Mark called the Honeymoon at ten to five. An angry voice informed him he was too early. A minute after 5, Mark left a message. Then at two minutes past five, he got through and we were lucky to get tacked on at the end of the night. I guess the regulars know all about sign up protocol.
So anyway, we spent the afternoon in the cabin, and worked through a few songs. It was very mellow and low key.
We arrived at the Honeymoon around 10pm. A trio was in mid set. They reminded me of the band,”Dexie’s Midnight Runners” They comprised of a girl on cello, a girl singing and a young man on acoustic guitar. Next up were 2 separate guitarists: the first of which, sounded a bit like James Tailor. The 2nd one didn’t
Some poets got up. Each read 3 poems. Poet number 1 was a bit depressed. Poet number 2 was quite sexual. I enjoyed the second one better.
I guess each artist got to play 15 minutes or perform 3 pieces. This kept things moving along nicely.
Around 10:30 we did our bit. I was surprised there were still a few people left. They politely waited till we’d finished before leaving.
Mark started us off with, “10,000 horses. Which I think went well. Then we played, “Walk on Water”. I must say, I did enjoy that one.
We finished off with J.J. Cale’s, “Any Old Time”.
And that was that. A fun night.
Considering it was our first meeting in 3 years, it went surprisingly smooth. Lucky we weren’t asked to play a 4th song.
The Star Club
March 23rd 2015
James, Howie and Jan
On the afternoon of the day of this gig, I met up with Jan at his little downtown hobbit house. We had a short, but positive practice session, sitting round his table and happily rattling through about an hour of material. Nothing too fancy: simple arrangements and nothing with too many dodgy chords. We then went our separate ways till sound check time about 7pm.
Somehow, me and Jan seem to meet up randomly every few years and play a few gigs then we’ll go off again on our life journeys. We’re like 2 little planets on the same orbit that can rarely cross paths. But when they do, there’s a quick eclipse and a small meteor storm then they’re off back to circling the universe. It therefore seems doubly ironic that 2 orbiting bodies should meet at a bar with a celestial name like The Star Club.
Later that same day……..
The evening began with Irish musician Peader MacMahon. He played his guitar and sang us some wonderful old tinker songs including, Go Move Shifts, and Farewell to the 30 Foot Trailer. It was a very mellow, down to earth and thoroughly enjoyable performance. I forget sometimes how nice it is to just sit back and listen to some traditional music. Jan joined him on a few tunes with his bazouki and harmonica which added some subtle depth to the mix.
When they finished, it was our turn to set up. Howie on fiddle, Jan on the bazouki and harmonicas again, while I played my guitar and sang.
Me and Howie have been practicing a fair bit recently, so we’d worked out enough songs to cover the 45 minute gig.
I guess it was a good wee gig. It’s hard to be bad when book-ended by such talented musicians as Howie and Jan. We breezed through most of the songs with barely a hic-cup that I could hear. The crowd were great listeners: a rare commodity these days. It was also great to see so many familiar, friendly faces. Hil was there with Bunny. Mark the Mud Man showed up. And even Ben Brooke made a rare cameo. There was quite a jovial but respectful atmosphere.
Heather from Maggie’s Fury did some Scottish country dancing and, right at the end, 2 more jiggers danced to the High Reel which made me glad we’d practiced it the day before.
We also played a spontaneous harmonica tune of Jan’s that we’d tagged on to the end of James Caird. We just about pulled it off despite my having to improvise a little as I’d semi forgotten the arrangement. But it came back to me.
I doubt Howie had even heard it before. I’d only heard it once from our practice that afternoon. Live music! Don’t ya love it? Never a dull moment!
I think we only played 2 of my own songs: Injara and James Caird. The rest were trad Scots and Irish such as, Jock Stewart, The County Down, Raggle Taggle Gypsy, Ca the Yowes, Cluck Old Hen.
Well, I’d say it was a good sociable night, but I think most nights are like that anyway at the Star Club.
And that was that.
Good job Howie. Fine, fine fiddling.
Until we meet again Jan.
Aug 21 2015
This was a fun gig in the beer garden full of familiar faces
We had just enough material together to pull off the 2 hour gig. For sure there were a few hic-cups: but we are a work in progress.
There was no mandate ordering us to play only trad music, so we were able to be more eclectic. We played more of my stuff and some bluesier songs too. But you know it’s time to pack it up when the band start jamming.
Then the bands that drowned everyone out at the Saturday market turned up. This time both bands united on stage and they were actually quite good. They had 2 girls out front who performed a raunchy naughty little song and dance Vaudeville act while the lads sat in the background providing the music.
Aug 31 2015
Normally the Monday evening Irish night is held in the beer garden, but due to the current stormy weather the gig was moved indoors.
Unfortunately the BB tap room is the black hole of sound checks. No one is to blame, it’s just the nature of the beast. It’s a noisy, cavernous room, alive with the clatter of cutlery, clinking of glass, the buzz of TVs and the loud drone of conversation and scraping chairs on wood floors.
There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong with this gig; and many of them did.
The room boasted a lively crowd: not quite the listening type of crowd, which meant the band really had a hard time hearing each other. Fine tuning was very difficult. Still…. We forged ahead.
Howie on fiddle, Jesse on the bass and mandolin, and Jan on bazooka and harmonica.
The first hour was quite good, but after we took a break, I got weary and brain dead. I definitely need some backing singers to help me out
On the whole, the gig was quite good. As a band, we are still trying things out. We are not yet familiar enough with the material to completely relax. Nevertheless, the crowd seemed to enjoy it. Considering we’ve only had about 4 practices ever and we’re still getting to know the songs,( and each other for that matter), I’d have to give some credit where it’s due under difficult circumstances. How bar room musicians ever coped in the pre-tuner era, I don’t know. Well actually I do. We just did.
Songs I enjoyed playing were, the ramped up version of, As I Roved Out, with Jesse’s Bb chord thrown in. Enjara was also fun. Handful of Earth was good. The Ha’s O Cromdale managed to slide fairly smoothly into Scolley’s Reel. Macpherson’s Lament felt good too.
Enjara and James Caird were the only 2 of my own songs we played
While I was hanging out after the gig, a man walked past and silently handed me ten dollars, then he walked out. When I took a 2nd glance at the bank note in my hand, I realized it was a $100 bill. I turned to thank the mystery donator but he was gone.
There were a few familiar faces in the crowd; Hil and her cycling friends, plus Chris and Bob showed up by accident. We hadn’t spoken in years. It was nice to chat. Another familiar Chris showed up too. Chris, the market photographer. I also met a woman from Dundee. That was unexpected.
I seemed to have some issues with my guitar. It felt a little distorted as if the battery was close to death, yet, I’d only played 1 gig with that battery. I’d even removed it after the last gig to conserve its power. I don’t know. Maybe I imagined it.
So, I’d say, it wasn’t a bad gig overall. There were a few moments here and there when we gelled, but it was a difficult gig. It felt like work. Exhausting. We are making progress. I look forward to the next one.
Hil's 50th Nov 1st 2015
Jekyle and Hyde pizza place.
Me and Hil are now a hundred years old. Yet I don’t feel a day over 50.
This gig was a bit chaotic. More of a jam than a gig.
Howie brought along his P.A. I would have liked just to have had an acoustic session as I thought it would have been more sociable. But with the US being a democracy (of sorts), I was out voted.
So we plugged in and jammed away in one corner while the crowd sat in the far corner. Except Liz and her family who sat right in the front. Thanks for the moral support.
My long lost brother Joe was in town for a few days. He’d brought along his guitar and he joined in a few songs which was fun.
We played a mix of stuff instead of a completely traditional set. We never really hit any great high points with this gig. It was all a bit makeshift and rough and tumble but it did help point out some serious trouble spots in our arrangements.
I had hoped to use the evening as a practice for our gig at Boundary Bay tomorrow. I guess it looks like we’ll be winging it again.
In the end, despite or because of the music, everyone had a fine time. There was pizza, beer and birthday cake. Well, wasn’t that a party?
Happy birthday Hil.
November 2nd 2015
This was my first time back in the Honeymoon since me and the Mud Man attended their open mike earlier this year.
On arrival, the place was just about empty. It didn’t get much busier as the night wore on. In total there were maybe 10 people at busiest. Lucky it is a small room. I guess the weather didn’t help attendance. Rainy, blustery, damp, and dark. A dreary night to be sure. Not a night to be trudging around in: a night for firesides and TVs.
Me, Howie and Jesse were the band. I’d made a list of songs we knew. Basically, we just worked our way through it. When we had played everything on the list, the gig was over.
A non eventful night. It’s hard to draw energy from a room of customers playing Chess, Mastermind, and cards. People were friendly. They seemed to enjoy our wee show. I think their Cider and Mead were just kicking in as we finished. We played from about 8:30 till about 10:15. The crowd alcohol saturation point peaked about five to ten.
Musically there were a few hiccups with endings. I ended a song half way through an instrumental, thinking it was over. (Sorry) Some intros were a bit iffy. Naturally there were a splattering of bum notes and an occasional fumbled lyric. Nothing that can’t be fixed.
Hil said we seemed to play very one paced. I had to agree. Songs are starting slower than they used to, then they slow down. We crawled through Erin Go Bragh. Musicians need energy from their audience. Not much energy in the Honeymoon this night. Maybe audiences get their energy from musicians. Which is a shame. In the past we’ve had some great nights there. Wasn’t there one with a leprechaun? Or did I imagine that?
Jeckle and Hyde Pizzeria
Dec 5th 2015
I used my little crate P.A. system for the first time since I don’t know when. Probably before we went to Europe. The band were, me and Howie. Jesse couldn’t make it.
We were supposed to play from 6 till 8, but the private group who were having the party wanted to play a Christmas themed quiz game which lasted an hour. Then they played Pass the Parcel. Then they held 3 prize draws. In the end we didn’t finish till 9:30. I didn’t really mind. We were really just background music. The crowd were friendly. Tips were generous.
Musically we were fairly tight. We played a mix of traditional Scottish/Irish, Appalachian and original stuff. I think we both enjoyed the evening. It was very easy going and a great positive practice. Whisky in the Jar O/ Scolleys Reel managed to maintain a good pace throughout. The same with The County Down. Recently we’ve been prone to starting songs too slow and then getting even slower. I guess subconsciously we concentrated on tempo.
That’s about it. I’d say this was a good gig. Not too many musical mistakes, plus the wee P.A. worked just right for that room and that crowd.
Pacific Arts Fair
Dec 5 2015
This turned out to be quite good fun. I sat in the corner and played some Irish, Scottish and original stuff. A good practice session. Tips were unusually good. Normally at these Christmas Fairs, tips are next to non existant. This time I got $19 for one hour. I bet it was the vendors who gave most. That means next week’s tips should be back to normal. We’ll see. Ronan was there too doing some Christmas shopping with Hil. He stopped by every 5 minutes to raid the Fair’s cookie buffet. He certainly enjoyed himself.
Pacific Arts Fair
Dec 12 2015
The fair was rather quiet today. As predicted last week, the tips were almost non existant. Having said that though, the girl who was playing violin as I arrived certainly had a healthy stash of cash in her case. The guy after me was selling CDs like they were going out of style.
So I blame myself. I wasn’t feeling very energetic. I’d been up all night with a sick dog. She needed to go out about 4 times. She is not feeling well at all.
I had planned to busk before I went to the fair, but rain put an end to that notion. A wasted day.
The actual playing wasn’t so bad, it was just a let down to return home with $2 for my troubles. I guess it’s the curse of my inconsistency. Great one day, so-so the next, and garbage the next.
Win some lose some.
Pacific Arts Fair. 19th December
This week’s gig was much more positive than last week’s non-event . I put less emphasis on Traditional music and stayed more mainstream Americana: Dylan, JJ cale, Louden Wainright, my stuff and some bluesy material. I played a little over an hour and came home $22 richer. Not much to report. I’ve been bringing along the forty two dollar guitar to these wee gigs. I keep it in an open D tuning. It’s handy for songs like, Singing in the Rain, Norwegian Wood and a few others. This is likely my last gig of the year unless something unexpected turns up. This past year I’ve certainly been low profile on the gig front.
Afterwards, I went next door into Goodwill where for $5 I bought a little pink Kitty (?) guitar. It only had 3 strings but it seemed fairly solid. I should give it to Ronan for Christmas. That’ll be a laugh.
From around September when work began to slack off at Smith Gardens, I busked fairly regularly at the Farmers Market. Last season I hardly missed a market, but this year, I guess I was too busy. I actually got my permit in April but didn't get to use it till Summer was over.