Never before have I crammed so much into concentrated periods of time. I just returned from 5 nights and 4 days on tour with David Ward and Mark Wilson for the next leg of the documentary and from the moment I arrived in Winnipeg (12:30 am on a Saturday) time, in the 24-hour clock sense, became irrelevant. Luckily, our interviewee subjects consisted of both daytime and nocturnal creatures.
Our interview with Kelly Hughes, owner of Aqua Books, took part at 2 am. Kelly is extremely generous with his time and despite the fact the venue is closed at the moment we were able to shoot on stage amid wonderful theatrical props, set pieces and signs of renovation. Beyond getting audiences to appreciate an experience that cannot be reproduced by watching a YouTube video, Kelly described the business challenges of opening and maintaining a small venue that doesn't cater to the mainstream arts audience.
After a 2-hour nap and an oil change, we were on the road to Guelph. First stop, a disused grain elevator in St-Pierre-Jolys to shoot a Neil Young-inspired musical segue. There were some frustrating audio issues which slowed us down a little but a little trouble shooting and Mark "keyboard player/sound recordist/lighting assistant" Wilson's able ear drums got things rolling in time for an early morning saunter along the railway tracks.
Back on the road, and other than a Google macro-view of the provinces and states, we literally did not have a map – a series of exits, road numbers and driving times were our navigation tools in the 32-hour drive across Canada and the US. I can tell you that we crossed the border in Minnesota and were questioned intently by the border police; had dinner in Wisconsin; saw approx seven deer in all states of existence during a misty drive through Michigan and, were pulled over at about 2 am for using the wrong turn lane and asked if were were carrying any weapons or marijuana. When we shared our travel plans and passed the, “they don't sound drunk or stoned” test we were told to just keep driving straight for a “really long time”.
The rest was a series of gas station stops, napping, passing trains, trees painted with glorious fall, and firsts that can only be experienced in drives of 24hrs+: the blazing, fiery drama of not one but two sunrises and seeing the moon rise ahead of you, blues absorbing the daytime pinks and oranges, as the sun makes a graceful, blissed-out exit in the rear view mirror...awareness and silence is all that's required.
When we finally made it to Guelph, there was little time to recharge batteries, human or electronic, before the next show: a fancy affair at Manhattan's Pizza Bistro and Music Club. My personal nerdy highlight was using the fishy goings on behind the bar as backdrop for the on-stage performance.
A well-earned rest in a Best Western and an egg breakfast was followed by a short hop to Toronto for our interview with writer, broadcaster and “Professional Music Geek”, Alan Cross. Alan is the creator of the 690-episode running show, the Ongoing History of New Music and is able to encapsulate 60+ years of music history into a 10-minute précis. He also has great insights into the challenges for the new music age, at both a domestic and international level. He is a man in demand and to say we appreciated his time just doesn't cover it: he was already on to a phone interview while we were packing up gear.
The Toronto show at Not My Dog was a warm, intimate affair in a 100-year old building which made for some great footage. An “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” inspired all-female trio and a folk-rock-with-an-edge-of-punk band whose lead vocalist had a strong Morrissey resemblance, kept the night fresh and unpredictable.
My last stop on the tour was The Spill coffee-house and bar in Peterborough and an enthusiastic university crowd, as well as the photogenic surroundings, made for another great night.
After the gig The Spill's Dave Tobey, described his own path into venue ownership. He also helped to re-inforce Kelly Hughes' story in that it's not just about a passion for music or the bottom line, you have to keep taking chances and work really, really hard to keep things rolling.
Back to the office today. Sleep deprived but footage and soul enriched.