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December 3, 2007 - My Cold, Cold Pre-Winter Four-Day Tour of the Canadian Prairies with Trevor Alguire

I met Trevor Alguire a few years back when I was hosting my radio show about musicians for musicians. He contacted me one morning about appearing on my show, and we ended up talking shop for about an hour as I heard his wife and his young daughter in the background.

Ever since that day, I’ve caught Trevor on stage a handful of times, and when I was playing with Casey Comeau & the Centretown Wilderness Club, I even had the opportunity to open for him. The man has incredible talent, and he’s very kind and down to Earth.

After I found out that I was not going to be given the time off work to take Arthur for a second cross-Canada tour last summer, I decided to book a series of weekend tours. When it came to touring the Prairies, I couldn’t think of anyone other than Trevor who I wanted to take on tour with me.

Thursday, November 29, 2007
Task: Fly to Regina, Saskatchewan to play a show at the Lazy Owl
Hours of travel: 6 hours
Food: Riblets with ranch dressing and the most beautiful Greek salad at the Lazy Owl
Alcohol: Gin-Bo (Gin and Bohemian beer), shooters of all kinds
Quotes of the day:
MJ: I brought organic, unbleached almonds!
Trevor: They actually make those?
MJ: (sarcastically) You wouldn’t happen to have an accordion lying around, would you?
Gail: As a matter of fact, I do!

On the eve of our departure, Trevor and I touched base one last time. His voice was very scratchy on the other end of the line. He had been up all night recording his second release. I was completely exhausted with deadlines at my two jobs and working with my new manager Benita Loewen on Touring Grant Application deadlines and on the finishing details of this tour. I was also busy organizing the logistics of the release of a single, and the recording of my second album (three of the songs were recorded in October and we are going back to Little Bullhorn to record the rest during the first two weeks of January).

I think I slept an average of five hours per night for the past month and I was really looking forward just hitting the road and worrying about nothing other than getting some sleep and performing some stellar shows.

Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as planned.

I read about musicians getting killed on the road all the time. Touring in Canada involves long drives between shows. I’ve been driving since I was 14 and am not afraid to drive during the worst of the winter conditions, however, I didn’t feel it was safe to tour Canada by car from November until April, as the Canadian weather is so unpredictable. It’s not the driving that scares me as much as having to drive through all sorts of conditions while needing to be at a certain place by a certain time.

So, inspired by Canadian Road Warrior Ray Spoon who does this all the time, I decided we should travel to our destinations either by plane or Greyhound. Call it an experiment... Benita and I are about to start a booking agency and distribution company, so it was good that I test run some of these tours…

Trevor and I met at the airport early on the Thursday morning and set out for Regina, Saskatchewan.

We were in good spirits when we landed at our destination. I was looking forward to getting to our B&B to relax, nap, write some music and rehearse. I hadn’t touched my instrument in about two weeks because I’d been so busy.

We waited patiently for our luggage and our instruments. Trevor got his bag, but the rest of our things just didn’t arrive. We had no instruments, and I was without a dress, make-up and merch! I was livid!

(We were later informed that our things had been left in Toronto. There was no reason for this because the flight wasn’t even full. Air Canada is going to get a nice letter from me.)

After making a few long distance phone calls on my mobile phone, I was ready to kill someone. Finally, we were informed that our things were on the next flight. There was nothing to do but go to our B&B and wait. Trevor had packed his winter coat with his guitar to protect it. It was -32C, his coat was in Toronto with his guitar, so we couldn’t go anywhere else…

I called the venue to let them know that we’d be late for sound check.

Gail at the B&B was lovely. She was very empathetic to our situation. I then sarcastically asked her if she happened to have an accordion lying around so I could rehearse a bit.

“As a matter of fact, I do!” And she disappeared into her basement and pulled out an old Honer. It was a beautiful thing, but had been badly abused. For fun, I played it for about 30 minutes. The instrument had a hole in its bellows, and it coughed, wheezed and spit out mould when I played it. The keys were bigger than on my accordion, but I quickly adjusted. It felt good to just play a little bit despite how badly the instrument sounded.

Gail took good care of us and drove us where we needed to go.

We arrived at our sound check 30 minutes late with all of our gear. Alexis from the Lazy Owl warmly greeted us and ensured we had beers in our hands within five minutes! The stage was set up and we quickly did a sound check and hit the stage.

Alexis’ friends showed up near the end of the night and we had a monster after-party. At one point, in a drunken stupor, I was bartending, pouring shooters for everyone. Trevor and I got out our instruments and jammed with each other – something we had intended to do before we left for our tour, but never got a chance. At one point, I made Trevor laugh so hard that water came out of his nose! We were having a blast! There is certainly something about Saskatchewan hospitality!

Like two teenagers, Trevor and I got back to our B&B drunk out of our skulls, stumbling and giggling, trying not to wake our hostess while letting ourselves through the door.

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Friday, November 30, 2007
Task: Take the Greyhound from Regina, Saskatchewan to Saskatoon, radio performance and interview at CFCR, and play a show at the Café Vivant
Hours of travel: 3.5
Food: Thai tuna melt and Skor brownie from the Café Vivant
Alcohol: None (!!!) (Some would say we’re lightweights, which we are!)
Quote of the day:
MJ & Trevor at various points of the day: I don’t feel very well…

Four hours after getting to bed, I was in the shower. Gail fed us well and took us to the bus station.

I was lucky enough to be able to get some sleep while on the bus.

Once in Saskatoon, we left our stuff at the CFCR radio station and went exploring on foot despite the cold. (It was hard to believe that just four months earlier, I was in Saskatoon, only it was about 60C warmer!!! Welcome to Canada!) We crossed the river and had a great time exploring stores on Broadway. The more time I spend in Saskatoon, the more I love this city!

Upon our return to the radio station, Trevor and I had a wonderful time with our interview and live performance with Jay, the same DJ who interviewed Arthur and I last summer. He and his wife were kind enough to drive us and all of our gear the Café Vivant after the interview.

We spent over eight hours at the venue waiting to sound check and to play. By the time we left, I was exhausted. Lynn Hainsworth, who took in Arthur and I last summer, put us up again. I went straight to bed, however, but got up early the next morning to accompany Lynn to the Farmer’s Market and to catch up.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007
Task: Take the Greyhound from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Calgary, Alberta to play a show at the Dog & Duck
Hours of travel: 10
Food: Lynn’s amazing coffee, Subway and Christmas oranges lovingly supplied by my brother, Bobbie’s chocolate-dipped dried apricot
Alcohol: Grasshopper beer
Quotes of the day:
MJ: What do you mean this bus doesn’t run on Saturdays?!!!!
Trevor: Welcome to Viagraville, Alberta! Home of the big egg!

Lynn, Trevor and I had breakfast at the Café Vivant, said good-bye to Shannon and headed for the bus station.

Once we got there, we were in for a horrible surprise. As it turned out, the bus from Saskatoon to Calgary didn’t run on Saturdays. When I showed the woman behind the counter the tickets and the schedule I was given when I booked the tickets in Ottawa, she countered with a “See this 315 here? That means that the bus only runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.” How on Earth was I supposed to guess that?!!! The guy that sold me the tickets didn’t say anything about that!!!!

She informed us that the bus to Edmonton did eventually get to Calgary – at 10:30pm. That just wouldn’t do! Our sound check was at 8pm and the venue closed at midnight!

I asked Trevor what he thought of flying to Calgary. He was scared that our luggage would not get there and that it would be too expensive. We quickly hopped the bus to Edmonton, which waited for us, and I set out to make some calls to my family in Alberta.

I was beside myself! I was so angry, deflated and exhausted, but there was no time for emotions. I needed to find a viable solution.

The bus ride was LONG. We were on the milk run and stopped everywhere. We got to see a lot of the Prairies. We tried our best to keep our spirits up and took a few moments to appreciate the beautiful sunset one can only see in this part of Canada.

My brother took care of everything. He looked into all kinds of options for us. He ended up meeting us at the bus station in Edmonton with sandwiches he had picked up for us for supper. We drove him home and we set out in my brother’s truck to Calgary.

After sitting on a bus for almost seven hours, we had another 2.5-hour drive ahead of us. Trevor, with his long, long legs, wasn’t too happy about it, but we didn’t have any choice.

“Trev, I can feel it in my stomach. Despite everything, it’s going to be a fantastic show! I just know it.”

When we dropped off my brother, I called the venue in Calgary to let them know that we’d be a little late and asked them to pull out their sound system. ‘What sound system?’ asked the girl on the other end of the line. ‘My boss is gone for the weekend and left me in charge, but he didn’t tell me anything about a sound system.’

Once again, we relied on friends and family to bail us out of a jam. Trevor called some friends in Calgary, and when we arrived at the venue, they had set up their sound system for us.

I had a lovely surprise waiting for me as well! Some of the gals I with whom I had worked on an archaeological dig in 2000 had decided to show up! It was so great to see them!

The staff at the bar was also great! They took very good care of us, which is always so nice, but, sadly, sometimes, doesn’t come with the territory.

My intuition about the show was bang on! Trevor and I were finally able to relax and each put on a wonderful show! We had been through so much together and we had gotten to know each other quite well! By then, we were comfortable enough to heckle each other while the other was on stage, much to everyone’s delight. During my set, people were dancing and making out, which was great for me, as I feed off that kind of energy!

It was about 2:30am when I got to bed at my father’s place. Trevor left to party with his friends and family.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007
Original Task: Drive to Lethbridge from Calgary, play a show at the Slice, and drive back to Calgary
Actual Task: MJ drove borrowed truck back to Edmonton, then took the Red Arrow back to Calgary to meet Trevor to do the original task
Hours of travel: MJ – 12, Trevor: 5
Food: Dolmas from the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market
Alcohol: Traditional
Quotes of the day: MJ: Merci, Christian!

Once again, four hours after getting to bed, I was in the shower. My father had gotten up early to make coffee and send me on my way.

I drove my brother’s truck back to Edmonton – a route I know all too well. I just put on music and zoned out. I love highway driving as long as it wasn’t through white-knuckle conditions. That morning there was no traffic and the roads were clear....

My brother made me breakfast, filled me with more coffee and took me to the bus station where I took the bus back to Calgary.

My father and I had 1.5 hours to celebrate Christmas before Trevor joined us and my father drove us to Lethbridge for our last show at the Slice, which, in my opinion, was the best show of the tour! People who had seen Arthur and me in Nanton last summer showed up and brought some friends. Lori was kind enough to poster all over town for us, and my long-time friend Blaine also showed up!

The venue had a great feel, and the sound was amazing!!! Trevor and I took our antics to a new level as he made noises with his beer bottle during one of my songs. “Come up here and do that!” So he knelt beside me on stage and played his bottle through on of my microphones and laughed as I spontaneously changed the lyrics to my song to mark the occasion! We just focussed on having a great time, which we did!

That night, we made good money and each sold a lot of merch. Despite the obstacles, the tour was quite a success. We were both flying!

My dad hung out with us patiently as we chatted with new and old friends. I passed out in the back of my father’s car while he drove us back to Calgary through a snow storm. I was asleep when he and Trevor saw a snowy owl take apart its prey by the highway. I was so exhausted that I don’t think a bomb would have woken me up.

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Monday, December 3, 2007
Task: fly back to Ottawa, Ontario from Calgary, Alberta and get some much-needed rest Hours of travel: 5
Food: my father’s famous omelette
Alcohol: none – again, we’re lightweights
Quotes of the day: Trevor - My wife just called. They’re expecting 40cm of snow in Ottawa.

I woke up early as I was expecting guests for breakfast. My father, bless him, was already up and making breakfast.

I entertained my friend Laura, who had surprised me at the show on Friday. We finally had some time to catch up. The plan was to let Trevor sleep in, but all of a sudden, he joined us in the kitchen.

He announced that his wife had just called and warned that they were expecting 40cm of snow in Ottawa. I groaned. One more obstacle… Were we ever going to get through this tour?

We kept an eye out on the flight schedules on the Internet and finally left for the airport. Our plane had been delayed by 30 minutes, but because of the tailwinds, we arrived almost 30 minutes before our scheduled arrival time! This flight home was the one thing that should have gone wrong, but it didn’t.

Trevor and I hugged good-bye at the Ottawa airport and each headed back to our pedestrian lives. We both had a rough week ahead of us. I had 60 hours of work to do in 3.5 days and finish up my Canada Council Grant application before flying back to Edmonton to play a show, hang with friends, and then fly to Cuba for a week with my mother and brother for a much-needed holiday.

I laughed with my roommates when I got home that night. I had two unscheduled trips through my hometown of Edmonton twice that weekend without seeing anyone but my brother and his wife.

The tour was a hard one, but Trevor and I got through it, with smiles on our faces at that! Despite the obstacles, we had a great time! We were turning into real Road Warriors! But you know the saying: The show must go on…. We both understood that and did everything in our power to make it happen. On my part, there were a few lessons learned. But in the end, shit happens and you have to deal with it. Having a network of friends and family is invaluable. (Many, many thanks to everyone who went out of their way to help us, drive us around and to give us moral support!) And keeping a positive attitude is about the most important ingredient. Otherwise, the entire experience would have been just miserable! Although I felt terrible that so many bad things had happened while with someone as amazing as Trevor, I had certainly picked the right person to take on tour and would do it again in a second!

 

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