Notes from the Road is Music Canada’s artist tour diary. Canadian artists on tour around the world will share their stories of fans, gigs and the “good, bad and the ugly” of touring!
It's early Tuesday afternoon and I just woke up in my own bed in the west end of Toronto. It's kind of strange considering we played Regina on Sunday night. We decided to dead-head it home right after the show knowing the weather would be good so we could have a couple days at home before the eastern leg of the tour. So thirty or so hours and many driving shifts later, we're all home safe for a couple days.
The rest of the west just kept getting better. It's been really hard to find time to write. A week ago Sunday, we made our way up highway 19 on Vancouver island to a little town called Cumberland. There's a great venue there called the Waverly Hotel, (which is nothing like the one in Toronto if you're familiar) and we once again played to an oversold crazy dancing crowd. I don't think westerners give a shit whether it's a weekend or not because it definitely did not feel like a Sunday. Victoria was next, so it was back south through Nanaimo and some rainforest roads to the provincial capital. We were starting to get really anxious about our Vancouver show at the Commodore which had already sold out. This is a huge step for any band, and the Commodore is quite possibly the best room in Canada. I have to admit that at first I was treating the Victoria show as a warm up for Vancouver, but as the Sugar nightclub started filling in, I knew I was wrong about that. The Victoria crowd was incredible, and we got to see our buddy Drew who used to work at The Dakota in Toronto.
I have to mention a little restaurant called FOO. It's billed as Asian street food, and if you're ever in Victoria, you NEED to try this place. It's on Yates across from the movie theatre for a point of reference. Our tour manager Ryan basically ran out of the van towards the place, but I had my doubts about the hype. I got the seared tuna on buckwheat noodles served with thin cucumber slices and a miso vinaigrette.....WOW is the only word. I'd have gone again before we left the next morning, but we're ALWAYS running late to catch the ferry off the island.
The ride across the channel was a lot of fun.. No need to mention ferry food, but we did meet up with the $100 crew and had some good laughs. Touring bands are very easy to pick out on ferry trips and especially when they're drawing attention to themselves, and we definitely were. It's worth mentioning at this point how great this band is. I don't think we could have picked better tour mates this time around. They're mesmerizing on stage and outstanding and kind as people. I think we were all feeling the electricity as we floated over to Vancouver for what would surely be the biggest show of the western leg, if not the tour.
The Commodore Ballroom is like a national musical treasure. Built in 1929, it doesn't look like it's changed at all since the doors opened all those years ago. It's everything a 1920's dance hall should be, with rich wood tones, semi-circle booths and giant arched windows that look down on the cross section of society that make up the Granville strip. The pre-party was a blast with a lot of wine, whiskey and three varieties of smoked salmon provided by Kyle from $100. The show was more than we could of asked for. Any technical problems we had were easily drowned out by one thousand cheering voices. The view from the stage was unforgettable. Our good buddy Dan Mangan
was playing a sold out show at The Orpheum right next door, and we were hoping to catch up with him later that night, but it gets late fast on evenings like this, and it didn't happen. Dan is one of the kindest and sincerest people you will ever meet in Canadian music, and if anyone deserves the level he's achieved, it's him. We'll see him down the road, I'm sure of that.
The next day was a relaxing one of interviews and media performances. We got to hook up with our friends Lisa, Grant and Lana from CBC3 in the morning, and we all had a hangover of a good time. That afternoon we did a couple performances in Gastown which will be available online sometime soon. It was a gorgeous day on the coast, and the streets were filled with Russian sailors shopping for Inuit souvenirs. A cold war era ship was docked in the harbour, and it was a strange scene to see all these young soldiers intermingling with strays from the Hastings district. Only in Vancouver.
We found out that Blitzen Trapper
was playing in town that night, and despite my utter exhaustion, this was a show I could not miss. I will forever be thankful to this band for writing an album that saw me through one of the roughest patches of my life. I took a quick nap, and then headed out towards the Rickshaw Theatre around 9:30. The Rickshaw is on east Hastings and I don't think one can ever overstate the wildness of this neighbourhood. I zig-zagged my way through zombies and single cigarette vendors and in through the doors of the crumbling theatre. A can of beer and a shot of Jameson's for 9 bucks and some of the most important songs to me made for an incredible ending to an amazing couple of days in George's town.
After an incredible breakfast at the Opus Hotel in Yaletown (the eggs Benedict looked so good I almost ate eggs), we headed back inland towards the train robbing town of Kamloops.
We coasted in through the fertile fields of the Fraser Valley towards Hope, which is where the first Rambo movie was filmed. We somehow took a wrong turn there (just like Johnny Rambo) and ended up missing Highway 5 north. This turned out to be a blessing as we later found out the pass had been closed due to weather. Our alternate route took us along the Fraser River north, initially through lush rainforest scenery and gradually into the desert like landscape that forms the upper interior. The Kamloops show was a lot of fun, but a little weird. We had a curfew of 11pm because of a Friday night DJ set that the whole town apparently attends. The second we finished Write It all Down For You, the DJ started up, and we rushed to get the hell out. This has happened many times in the past. What can I say... shitty house music puts asses in the seats.
We were up early the next morning for a long drive to Edmonton through the charred hills north and east of Kamloops from a previous year's fire. This part of our country has a storied history. This is where Bill Miner and Shorty Dunn robbed trains and stage coaches, and hid their treasures in the hills. Miner, originally from the US is probably Canada's most famous train robber. Known as the "Gentleman Bandit", he was famous for treating his victims kindly and even thanking them for their co-operation. You can't get more Canadian than that. At one point in history, the railroad ended in Kamloops. It was a frontier town, filled with brothels and saloons, and goods were transported all over the interior by coach from there. A perfect place to raise some hell. Miner was eventually tried there and sent to prison. He eventually escaped anyways.
To be honest, the trip through Edmonton and Regina was pretty blurry. Exhaustion had taken hold. We did meet up with the $100 crew just outside of Jasper, and we got to take some photos together in front of the frosted mountains, while a curious coyote circled us and watched carefully. There were plenty of elk to watch out for, and we were preparing ahead of time for the dead-head drive home.
The rest of the trip was filled with driving shifts with period stops for gas, clubhouses and crinkle fries at some of the many highway diners that feed the weary travelers of the world's longest highway. We arrived in Toronto around the morning rush hour, and I lumbered into the house and into bed with an over-excited dog licking my face with the hopes of a long walk that was NOT going to happen. Poor Mark still had an hour to go on his way home to Hamilton.
Casey Laforet is one third of Elliott BROOD, playing acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass pedals, bass guitar, mandolin, banjo, lap steel,and vocals. Elliott BROOD just released their latest album, Days Into Years, on Paper Bag Records. The band is currently touring Canada with One Hundred Dollars.
Elliott BROOD on Tour:
Oct 13 - Guelph, ON - Club Vinyl*
Oct 14 - Hamilton, ON - Leander Boat Club*
Oct 15 - London, ON - Call The Office*
Oct 21 - Ottawa, ON - Mavericks
Oct 22 - Kingston, ON - The Grad Club*
Oct 27 - Sault Ste. Marie - Lop Lop Lounge*
Oct 28 - Thunder Bay, ON - Crocks*
Oct 29 - Winnipeg, MB - West End Cultural Centre*
Oct 31 - Saskatoon, SK - Amigo's*
Nov 01 - Lethbridge, AB - The Slice*
Nov 02 - Canmore, AB - Communitea Cafe
Nov 03 - Calgary, AB - Republik*
Nov 04 - Nelson, BC - Spirit Bar @ The Hume Hotel*
Nov 05 - Golden, BC - The Rockwater*
Nov 07 - Cumberland, BC - The Waverley Hotel*
Nov 08 - Victoria, BC - Sugar*
Nov 09 - Vancouver, BC - The Commodore Ballroom*
Nov 11 - Kamloops, BC - Cactus Jack's*
Nov 12 - Edmonton, AB - Starlite Room*
Nov 13 - Regina, SK - The Exchange*
Nov 17 - Sudbury, ON - The Townehouse*
Nov 18 - Toronto, ON - The Phoenix Concert Theatre*
Nov 19 - Montreal, QC - La Sala Rossa*
Nov 22 - Saint John, NB - Peppers Pub
Nov 23 - Fredericton, NB - The Capital
Nov 24 - Charlottetown, PEI - Baba's Lounge
Nov 25 - Halifax, NS - Seahorse Tavern (Early + Late Show)
Nov 26 - St. Johns, NL - Club One
Nov 28 - Sackville, NB - Royal Canadian Legion
Nov 29 - Parkindale, NB - Parkindale Hall
* w/ One Hundred Dollars
Elliott BROOD is: Mark Sasso (banjo, guitar, harmonica, vocals), Casey Laforet (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass pedals, bass guitar, mandolin, banjo, lap steel,vocals) and Stephen Pitkin (percussion, drums, piano, vocals).
Dave Spencer/Michael Schipper
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