In case you missed it, our main man, Jeff Bird has just released a new album on Latent Recordings under the guise of his band The Potion Kings. It's hard music to describe, but if you are a fan of some of Miles's eccentric early 70's electric wanderings you should feel comfortable in the hands of The Potion Kings. The band is made up of Jeff on bass, guitar whiz Kevin Bright, mad-man Randall Coryell on drums and percussionest Howie Southwood. It's a wild and wooly ride, just hold on tight and enjoy.
We did it. Fourteen shows in sixteen days. Two sets a night. Many, many road miles. One hotel room. Many bad movies….and other things. But we did it. We are toast. Luckily we finished this off in an easy little town like Tarrytown and had the benefit of playing in an old spooky venue like the Music Hall. Most importantly we had a sold out house full of energy. Margo, heroically, found enough of her voice to pull the whole thing off. I have no idea how we played…I'll leave that to be decided by those in the audience, at this point we are too disassociated with our selves to be any gauge. I think it went well…but I have no idea.
This has been a very fun and successful little tour. One of the best attended in a long time. None of it would have been possible without our crew, Jared and John. As exhausting as this was for us, it was doubly so for them, but you would never know it. They go above and beyond everyday and still have enough left over to keep us entertained. They rock.
We are home tomorrow (Jeff's Birthday), re-enter our real lives, carefully, and then, around mid-April, just when things are settling down and getting back to normal, we'll be out the door again and heading West. Enjoy the coming of Spring (it is coming, right?).
Today was a tough day. We woke up in downtown Newark, it was cold and it was necessary to dig our winter coats out from the bottom of our bunks. We're heading back in to Winter and we are all a little hung-over from our three days and nights in Alexandria. I know that they are trying here in Newark (the Performing Arts Centre that we played tonight is evidence of that) and they have come a long way in the last ten years, but man, there is a long way to go. Downtown is still a wee bit post-apocalyptic. On the bright side, we found another St Patrick's Day Parade, only two days early this time, and there were lots of high school bands. There were also a few drum corps and a few flights of bagpipes (at least I think that is what you call a parading set of bagpipers). It was fun to watch the band kids enjoying not-enjoying themselves….anyone who has a teenager at home will understand.
A very nice modern hall tonight…perhaps a little cold and very sterile back stage, but a definitely a nice place to play in. Margo has been fighting a cold and exhaustion for the past few days and tonight it caught up with her. Her voice is hanging on by a thread, I wonder if that thread can support one more show. In the theater next to us tonight was a Classic Albums band (from Toronto) who were performing Led Zepplin I and IV….note for note. In our hall we were performing The Trinity Session, not quite note for note, but we felt a little bit like a cover band tonight, like we didn't have any true connection to the material. I'm sure it was a decent show from an audience perspective, but it was a hard one on the stage. Margo did a great job at working around the limitations placed on her by her cold. We have one more show tomorrow night in a very nice little theater in the cool little village of Tarrytown. It's a sold-out show and it would be nice to go home with one more win under our belts.
When we arrived in Alexandria yesterday we were pummeled by a full-on Southern Rain. But it didn't matter, we all took to our rooms and most of us didn't re-appear until it was time to go to the venue this afternoon. This was our first non-moving bed in the last 12 days….pure luxury.
Two nights at The Birchmere…the first night was a Trinity night and the second night was the first time that we ever performed Black Eyed Man in its entirety. The Trinity night went like a dream. A very excited audience (especially for The Birchmere which can be a bit staid at times) and we played with a lot of energy and invention. It was an excellent night.
We have been working on the songs from Black Eyed Man for the past couple of weeks in soundcheck and have been playing a few of them each night. This is not an easy album to play…way too many chords. Songs like A Horse In The Country and Murder Tonight In The Trailer Park have been in our repertoire for decades, but about half of the material hasn't seen the stage in ten years. After listening to us in soundcheck for the past week Jared has decided to buy a clicker and keep track of the amount of mistakes that we make during the performance. The show went well. We only had one little train wreck during the bridge in The Last Spike, I lost track of where we were and then Al followed suit, and I also screwed up Jeff during the solo of Winter Song (we have never played this song live). There were a couple of other minor hic-ups but all-in-all I think we pulled it off. It wasn't the most relaxed show that we have ever done, but the challenge was exciting and it felt like the audience was in to the whole premise. A very succesful two nights.
We also had the pleasure of visits from the ghosts of Tour Managers past. Blair Woods and Craig Chapman were there for the first night and Mike Sponarski, who is in town with The Chieftains, came down after the show and kept us up all night. It's always fun reliving old campaigns with comrades in arms.
Annapolis, MD – (March 10, 2013) This morning I was woken up by a marching band. It was doing what it does best, marching and playing, leading the parade past our bus. This was Annapolis’s first attempt at a St Patrick Day Parade so I don’t feel it would be right to comment on it….but they did miss the date by a week. I wonder if the decline in funding for music education in the schools systems around North America can be linked to the overall decline in the availability of high-school marching bands to celebrate holidays up and down our main streets. Someone should get a grant and study that equation…you could create a whole career out of it.
This little town is becoming a regular oasis for us when we come through the area and the Rams Head is at the center of that oasis. This is another of those weird rooms that doesn’t look like it should work, but it does, we always have interesting shows here. Part of the reason is that this is a very comfortable and easy town to spend a day. We’ve been here so many times that we all have our favourite, book store, record shop, ice cream parlour or café that we like to check in on. The days are relaxed and so are the shows. This one was no exception.
Sellersville, PA – (March 11, 2013) This is one of the strangest little burghs that we have ever played. It’s a mere crossroads of a place that, I think, is tucked away in the hilly south eastern corner of the state….not too far from the little Shangri-La of a town, Jim Thorpe, PA., which we discovered last summer. The place is over-flowing with ghosts and perhaps a ghoul or two. Zombies roaming the streets would fit right in. We loved it. The more we dig in to this State in search of venues, the more we discover these very odd and refreshingly original little towns. Sellersville is perched on a very steep hillside, so we spent the whole day walking up or downhill. Even our bus sat all day on an incline. It gave the day an interesting perspective.
We ate dinner at the 250 year old George Washington Inn (guess who stayed there overnight?) and the waitress told us all about the buildings ghosts. It was an excellent meal. And it was an excellent gig. This was our tenth show in eleven nights and we all chose to take this show by the throat and throttle it in our own special ways. The audience was up to the task of providing us with the energy, which we so desperately needed, and we dug in. An excellent show heading in to a much needed day off.
Last night our bus was tagged while we slept behind the gig in Atlanta. We’re not sure if it was the Egg Gang or the E99th Street Posse. We are collecting forensic evidence.
Chapel Hill was a-buzz today: in a complete tizzy…the Blue Devils were in town. The rivalry between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils, two titans of NCAA basketball, is legendary and long-lived. Tonight we are in the home of the Tar Heels and so is Duke. The game didn’t really affect us too much, except the promoter wasn’t sure that he would be able to get anyone to help us load out after the show because everyone would be watching the game……..?
Another sunny day spent strolling the streets. When I think “college town”, I image a place like Athens, or Northampton where a supportive funky community has grown up around the university, fueled by the energy and pocketbooks of the student population. You couldn’t exactly call Chapel Hill “funky” these days, although there was a time when I suppose it could be favourably compared to a place like Athens. Over the years the franchises have moved in and improvements have been made. There are still a few refugees from the old days, a couple of coffee shops and record stores. I bought Spiritualized “Laser Guided Melodies” on vinyl, as a little pre-Spring Solstice present to myself. The Cat’s Cradle sits at the far end of the strip and it is one of the more prominent holdovers from the days before Starbucks came to town. It is a renowned rock club, stinky, dirty and loud and we had the honour of playing it a lifetime ago. Today they have a sister facility for all the old-fart bands and their old-fart audiences, called the Arts Centre and that is where we played….that’s not to say that we or our audiences are old farts….On first glance its not a great room. It’s hard to make it sound good and the seating is configured in an odd way, but once it fills up it becomes a great little box. I think that is a testament to the intensity of our audience down here, old farts or not. We had another very fun night on stage.
…..by the way, the Blue Devils kicked the hometown heroes asses…..
Today was a good day. We felt the sun on our skin for the first time in a few months, while we wandered around Little Five Points with all our hippie, rasta, punk and goth friends. A perfect day to display ones new tattoo or piercing or, for the less flamboyant, a perfect day to just absorb some vitamin D.
Little Five Points and the Variety Playhouse has become our home in Atlanta over the past few years. The theater is in need of a good cleaning and a little TLC, but for some reason we have always had good shows here. This city has always been good to us. In the early days, when we were traveling around these parts in a van, we often found ourselves stranded in Atlanta while we waited for the next gig. We were always welcomed in strangers’ homes and shown nothing but good ole Southern hospitality. We saw Townes Van Zandt for the first time in Atlanta at a small folk club. It was my birthday and he was doing two shows, so we paid to get in to the first one and somehow made ourselves inconspicuous so that we could catch the second show for free. A few years later we were traveling around the country in a bus with Townes along for the ride. So we like it here, there is a reason that Atlanta gets a call-out in the first line of 200 More Miles.
Tonight was a “Trinity” show, our third one on this run, and I think we finally figured out how to approach the material: with a quiet intensity. We had a great night and the audience, as usual in this town, was fantastic.
I awoke today to the news that Stompin’ Tom Connors had died. Most of you (anyone who isn’t Canadian) probably wouldn’t know who Stompin’ Tom was: he was an original. He made his mark as a folk singer, in the true sense of the term, he wrote songs about the people and for the people. I got to know his music through the tv show that he had in the early 70’s. I watched him pound his board each week and was fascinated by this stern looking man, with the cartoon songs and black cowboy hat. If I was honest about it, I would probably list him as one of my first influences even though I haven’t listened to his music in many decades. He was an original, and the passing of an original should always be mourned, because there aren’t a whole bunch of them out there.
The tire that we got put on two nights ago was faulty so we had to sit 2 ½ hours last night at a truck stop waiting for a bay to open up. That’s ok, it just meant a quiet patch to sleep through, until they started changing the tire and the power tools came out. We got in to Charlotte late, set up, soundchecked, ate and did the show. We have played this venue (Spirit Square) a few times and it is a beautiful sounding hall. We had a very enthusiastic and excited crowd, thank you for sharing your energy. I made a truce with my guitars tonight….there were a couple of quarrels, but I think we made up. We had a fun night, the audience would not be denied.
Sometimes when you sketch out a tour you have a couple of outliers that don’t quite fit in to the routing. You assess the offer and sometimes confirm it with the hope that something will come along that will tie all the travel together. The gig in Franklin was just such a gig, unfortunately, this time we weren’t able to find a gig that tied it to the rest of the tour. So our day off was spent driving the ten hours to Charlottesville, VA, sitting for twelve hours while our driver slept and then continuing on for another ten hours to Franklin. Along the way we blew a tire and ran from a late winter storm howling in to the South East….but we made it, if a little beaten up.
Franklin is about 10 miles south of Nashville. It’s a tidy little town that has managed to preserve most of its 19th century architecture. It looks like a lot of money has moved in to this area over the past couple of decades and some of that money has been put to good use in refurbishing and preserving the Antebellum history of Main Street. It’s also apparent from all of the historical plaques set up around town that there was a lot of blood spilt in this area during the Civil War, including The Battle of Franklin, which was one of the bloodier battles of the western campaign. The Franklin Theatre has been one of the beneficiaries of the town’s refurbishment movement. The new owners have taken a beautiful old 1930’s movie theatre and turned it into a modern music room, with excellent production and one of the nicest backstage set-ups that we have come across. We were treated incredibly well. Unfortunately the show itself (from my perspective) didn’t live up to the surroundings. I had a horrible night, one of those nights where the guitar feels like a piece of plywood and the fret board looks like an algebra equation (“…if I put this finger here and that finger there, I should get…DOH!!…). In any case, the audience spent the second set trying their best to pull us through. I hope that it wasn’t as tortured a show from their perspective (it usually isn’t). We hope to get back here soon and redeem ourselves (or at least redeem myself).
Norfolk is tucked away in the Northwest corner of Connecticut. It`s a beautiful area which reminds me more of West Virginia than New England: hills and swales, tors and valleys. This countryside has an “ancient“ feel to it, one gets the sense that far more history has happened here than has been recorded, a forgotten corner. The town has been here for over 250 years, but it feels like just a speck. It would be a great area to explore in the warmer months of the year.
The venue, Infinity Hall, is a spectacular Arts-and-Crafts style building built in the 1880s that has been beautifully restored: there is an excellent restaurant and bar on the main floor, with a great old opera-house on the third floor. They even had the foresight to carve out a nice size space in the basement for dressing rooms which are comfortably appointed, clean and inviting. We were treated exceptionally well. Tonight`s show could have gone in any direction. We are all pretty tired and were in need of an audience to step in and do their part, shake us up, remind us why we are out here. And they came through. We had a fun night. We even accepted a request to play The River Song Trilogy….and made it all the way through…what a bunch of pros….