The Longest Story
The Longest Story, Part 1:
There has been a large gap between entries and the reason for that is this: as an artist with a day job sometimes I don't have the time and energy to do everything I want to do! I didn't know how other artists did it until I found out that a lot of purported “struggling” musicians don't have day jobs! I don't know where they get their money from, and, with all that free time I don't know why some of them ain't famous yet! Either way, after my experiences treeplanting all those years, working oil rigs all those years, bike couriering, now driving trucks, I have no time for lazy wannabe anti-mainstreamers. Can't sing about the working man if you don't work!
Speaking of jobs, most of my life I've worked seasonal work or dead end jobs here in the great city of Vancouver. Wages here for unskilled or semi skilled labour (also know as dead end jobs) are questionable. In order to fund and live the life I want to lead I always need a job that has flexible hours so I can take time off for band things. It's a bit of a trick to find a job with flexible hours and decent pay. Somehow I have always been able to make it happen, I don't know why others can't.
I started working for a company in September 2010 driving a truck here in the Lower Mainland. Lots of heavy lifting and long hours. As time went by I began to hate it and had planned to quit in May 2012 to go on a cross Canada tour. (FYI, I organize all of our tours. We don't have outside representation as I don't trust anybody to do it. I've dabbled in outside “management” but they all end up poseurs.) Organizing a tour is a lot of work and needs constant devotion. It's more than simply making a few phone calls. It involves making and building relationships and contacts. We've established all that in western Canada and now need to break into the far east, IE Toronto. But I digress! My bosses were a married couple who lived in a mansion in West Vancouver. They decided to part ways and she was going to run the company. It was a small company with two trucks and two guys. While coming back from the January tour, on Highway 3 outside of Princeton BC, I had a voice message on my phone. When we hit Princeton I checked messages and it was work. She said she needed to “talked to me about something”. I gave her a call and sure enough, I was out of work. She said she had “too much going on with her pending divorce and legal wranglings” to make a go of the company. Therefore me and my right hand man were out of work as of January 31st! I can assure you it didn't improve my opinion of rich people. A good friend said “change brings opportunity”. Thanks Richard!
I wasn't too broken hearted about losing the job. I was more annoyed that I had to find a new one. With the February tour coming up, I didn't want to look for a job and then say “thanks for the new job! Now I have to ask for a week off!” Nor did I want to secure new work and then quit in May to tour across the country! I like quitting after working there for a long time as oppose to a short time. It increases chances of getting the job back afterwards! Downtime can be deadly for me. But I was able to use the time to get caught up on band stuff like sending the new CD to CBC and all the college and public radio stations in Canada. Look for us on CBC Radio and your local Co-Op radio!
February also brought a small line up change. Please welcome to the Pernell Reichert Band's long list of staff Mr. Ross Fairbairn, our new bass player. Ross is a multi-instrumentalist who hales from Richmond BC. We've met a number of times over the years and now it's his first time in a touring band! See what playing music can get ya?
The first show of February's tour was supposed to be at the Big Eddy Pub in Revelstoke, BC. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled with less than a weeks notice. The owner's reason was that they were being penalized for an infraction that had occurred a number of months before. Sometimes one has to take things at face value. It's a pity we lost the show. Thankfully we found out before hitting the road and could work an extra day at our jobs. Therefore the first show was in Edmonton at the tried and true Black Dog Freehouse!
We left Vancouver in a rental van the night of Tuesday, February 14th. Valentine's day. What a present! We drove all night east on Highway 1 to Hope BC, then headed north on Highway 5. We hit Kamloops and continued north on the 5 passing town after town. At about 11pm, and in freezing cold weather complete with snow and ice, we decided to stop in Blue River, BC. We bought a 6-pack of beer, sat in the van and watched The Hang Over 2 on my computer. That's rock-n-roll!
The next day, after a cold and cramped sleep we got some coffee and moved out, north on the 5 until we hit Highway 16 where we turned right, eastbound bound for Edmonton. We arrived mid afternoon, set up our stuff, then relaxed before showtime. Travelling can be very draining! The show rocked, lot's of people for a Wednesday night! Spent the night at my good friend and diehard fan's place! Thanks again Anne!
Once the initial drive to the first gig is over the rest is gravy. I call the initial drive the deployment. Once deployed the rest of the driving is a bit easier. The next gig was in Lethbridge, Alberta, a straight drive south. We played The Slice for the 5th time! The difference this time is we played a Thursday instead of a Sunday or Monday! Jesse, the owner of The Slice has always been good about booking bands seven days a week. That can be very convenient when booking a tour, as most places want you to play Fridays and Saturdays only. But this time we played Thursday and had a good crowd.
The next day we packed up and headed for Lake Louise, Alberta our first time playing there. I worked as a dishwasher in Lake Louise in 1994! I spent many a night in the employee's only bar called Stables. Prior to us playing there, the last time I was in that room was 1994, eighteen years earlier! And get this! Lake Louise is a five star hotel belonging to the giant Fairmont Hotel chain, and we got to sleep in it! This building is huge, with hundreds of rooms and hundreds of employees. Free house coats to wear anywhere on the property! We stayed indoors as there were several feet of snow outside. After the show we roamed the endless maze of hallways in our housecoats complete with white russians!
February 18th was the last gig of the tour at the famous Auditorium Hotel in Nanton, Alberta. The Auditorium has rooms above the bar that are unchanged since the 1950's. The radiators leak and hiss, the water pressure in the taps are spontaneous, the beds squeaky and the paint peeling. But man it will always be cozy to me. You'll never find a cozier room with such hospitable staff than the Auditorium Hotel! One of the last of the Canadiana Cowboy hotel and bars!
Then the saddest part of any tour: the long drive home. We left Sunday, February 19th and drove a straight shot home, by-passing Calgary, connecting to the Trans-Canada and drove west, arriving in Vancouver late that night. I was not looking forward to the next day: day one of searching for a job.
The Longest Story, Part 2:
The rest of February was taken up with a gig at Toby's Bar and Grill, always a rowdy time, a gig at Cafe Montmartre, always a fun time, and looking for work, which is really fun too. But, as I am amazing, I picked up a job I used to work at, driving truck once again! I cashed in on some connections. That's the way it works sometimes, you hold out and out and out and then when the timing is right you phone 'em in. With that task sorted out came the next adventure: March's solo tour!
I started my new job the last week of February. Work is work and sometimes you can't be as picky as you'd like. The first show on the tour was March 8th in Coleman, Alberta, located on Highway 3 just east of the BC and Alberta border. Here in Vancouver, people think they're so well travelled and educated. But then when you ask them what they think of various places in BC or the rest of the country they furrow their eyebrows and make un-funny jokes about places they've never been. This town is a true mountain town, and the venue is called The Rum Runner Saloon. Filumena Lassandro was the last woman to be executed in Alberta for an alleged murder that took place in Coleman. The bar was called the Rum Runner for a reason.
March 7th, the night before the gig, I worked an 8 hour shift starting at 2:30pm! We were supposed to be on the road at that time! But like I said work is work. I finished at 10:30pm, got in the truck and drove east on Highway 1 as far as I could, transferring to Highway 3 in Hope, BC and passing out at 2:30am in Princeton, BC. I awoke to the sound of big diesel engines being fire up by the truckers who found comfort in the same parking lot as me! I put my own truck in gear and continued east on 3 passing Osoyoos, BC, Rossland, BC, Fernie, BC, finally the Alberta border, the Crowsnest Pass, and Coleman.
My solo shows can be rockin' like Wil, or peaceful and melodic like Smog, depending on the venue. Like I tell venue owners and my bio says, I can rock any room. And so was the case in Coleman. When I arrived it was already heating up! I set up my guitar and banjo and foot tambourine and started slow with a few John Prine numbers then picked it up with a few Johnny Cash numbers. Near the end an entire snow mobile club pulled in! It got so busy they had to call in extra staff! When I finally got done I'd played four sets and they still wanted more! Thanks Coleman! It was a Thursday night!
The next gig was Friday March 9th in Fernie, back into BC via Highway 3. I've played the Brickhouse in Fernie four times, always solo. It's hard to read the crowd while playing, often wondering if they are even listening. But after the show several people will see me somewhere and say “oh I really liked that Ramblin' Jack song” or “who's song was the fifth song of the second set?”. Always a fun gig, a fun venue with good food and yummy staff. I mean beer.
The next afternoon I played a small cafe in a farmers market in Nelson, BC. In all the years I've been doing this stuff it's only the second time playing Nelson! And might I add way better than the first time! A more attentive crowd and more money. Some venues give the “you have to understand we are on a tight budget, times are tough” routine. My advice is to pay the musicians a fair wage or don't have live music. I thought I'd established a strong contact in Nelson last June, but since then they won't return my e-mails or phone calls. I gave up on Nelson until Ellison's Market!
That night I played The Cedar Creek Cafe in Winlaw, BC, yet another rockin' out of the way venue. It's one of only a few buildings that make up Winlaw. A few people came who had seen me play there with the band in 2008! After the show I was invited back to their place for an all night jam! What a night!
Sunday was leaving day again heading north on Highway 6 to Nakusp, BC then Highway 23 north to Galena Bay on the Upper Arrows Lake. I caught a free ferry across the lake to the other part of Highway 23 and continued north to Revelstoke. Once there I dropped into the Big Eddy Pub to re-organize another show there for May. (Keep in mind at this point it is early March.) I decided to spend the night in Revelstoke, knowing I could make a straight shot home the next day on the well traversed Trans Canada Highway, which I did. Monday night, back in Vancouver, Tuesday morning, back to work.
The Longest Story, Part 3:
The rest of March involved a solo show at The Main, a licensed bistro and mainstay in the Vancouver music scene. At the end of March was what may have been our biggest show of the year, a Friday night at the famous Railway Club. We played the show with Tim Ross, Weathered Pines and Desert Radio. We'd met Tim in Kimberley, BC in January. I guess he liked our show so much he had us open for him at his CD release party! Goes to show what touring and playing a show sober can do!
Believe it or not, when Tom's not devoting his life to the Pernell Reichert Band he plays a very cool sport called bike polo. The bike polo crowd take what they do very seriously. And to my delight there was a big tournament on Gabriola Island the weekend of April 7th. I've been trying to play the Gulf Islands for a few years and finally we secured a gig. Bike poloists like to party and I knew the owner would be impressed. And he was. The venue is called the Skol Pub and we had that place cooking! Spent the night in our tents at the nearby campsite, all 150 of us! Thanks bike polo!
April 20th another show at the Main, but this time I brought the band. The Main can be a profitable gig which is always nice, especially since we were playing the Port Browning Pub the next day located on beautiful Pender Island! Another rockin' joint on a rockin' island. Spent the night in our tents again! I'm getting a lot of use out of that thing! I love tents, sleeping bags, thermo-rests, campfires.....
The Pender Island gig proved to be the last gig with a rented vehicle. We started renting vans June of last year. A lot of stress can be relieved by not having to wonder if the tour van is going to crap out. Our last van was a 2002 Pontiac Montana and boy did I get sold. Owned it for less than half a year but did it cost me! Now, after some good research and a slight change of attitude (I have a bad attitude when it comes to cars!) we are the proud owner of a 2005 Chevy Venture! So far she's a rocket. Our first gig with her was the tried and true Toby's Bar and Grill!
Then came the May tour.
The Longest Story, Part 4
I started booking the May tour last fall. It wasn't meant to be called “the May Tour”, it was meant to be called “the Cross Canada” tour. As mentioned above organizing a tour is a lot of work. Venue owners can be hard people to track down and be convinced that they should book us. It's all a game of connecting the dots on a map; the gigs have to be somewhat close to each other; some bars book only certain nights, venue people will say they didn't get your e-mail, or they want you to phone back later. Then you phone back and they're not there.
Well, I started the machine of booking a cross country tour when suddenly my job came to an end at the end of January. As a result I had to shorten the tour to four gigs, the only four I was able to secure! But what a tour it was!
The first gig was in Revelstoke, BC at the Big Eddy Pub. We played an empty room there in January, then we were cancelled there in February. I worked nine days in a row at the day job until Tuesday, May 1st. That night we packed up the Chevy and head east on the trans Canada to once again spend the night in Penticton, BC at drummer Tom's place. The next morning as we were getting ready to head out I checked e-mail. The guy at the Big Eddy Pub cancelled us with less than twelve hours notice! He said we still got the hotel and one meal each. That's nice. We lost out on the guarantee (that means payment in band speak) which messed up the budget. We also could have spent one more day at home working the day job. He said he had over booked and had already paid the other band a deposit. Like I mentioned before one can only take things at face value. It's too bad the gig didn't work out, I wished it had.
Back on the road we drove north on Hwy 97 then east on Hwy 1 to Revelstoke. Spent the evening drinking rye and walking around town, then the night at the hotel. Unexpected down-time, that's what that was.
The next day we made the eastbound push to Calgary to once again play the Palomino Smokehouse! Now that's a country bar! Some places can do it and others...not so much. We shared the bill with The Smokin' 45s, one of Calgary's finest rockabilly bands! It turned into a late night!
May 4th we drove the long drive to the 'Toon, Saskatoon. We played the same pub, Lydia's in 2008. Time can go by fast and before you know it, four years go by! We were worn out from the long drive and we weren't exactly chomping at the bit to play. But that's the life right? That's the job. We played a set to a lively crowd then took the first break. We played a second set to a livelier crowd then took a break, wondering if we should even go back on. Something was missing, not exactly sure what. Our mojo? Their mojo? Good crowd but no fire. We went outside to get some air (and a nip or two of gin.) When we came back in the place was jammed, filled to capacity, standing room only. The sound guy asked if we were doing another set. His tone of voice suggested we do another set before the damn crowd riots! Back on stage for our best third set ever. Those prairie peeps ate it up like nobody's business. Every table had five or ten people on it rockin' out! 150 people going ape! Thanks Saskatoon! The highlight: being told we were one of the politest bands they'd ever had! Ha! US?!
Spent the night upstairs in the best band accommodation ever! The next day the long drive to Winnipeg, east on Hwy 16. Sometimes I think the country is just to darn big. Again the last time we played 'Peg was 2008! Never again will I wait that long. We shared the stage with a rockin' band called Little House. They put on a great show and brought A LOT of people to the show. The venue was called The Cavern, and, like the Cavern in Liverpool, England it's underground. It was bass player Ross's first time in Winnipeg and what a first night it was! The place was packed just like Saskatoon! Two girls wanted to come on stage “and dance”. Normally I frown on that sort of annoying drunken behaviour but these chicks were different. Rowdy but not obnoxious ya dig? It was as though the band had increased by two!
Spent the night at James Brown's place, the booker and sound guy extraordinaire!
At this point the tour was over, with the only thing ahead of us the long LONG drive halfway across the country. I'd go to the end of the earth for music and crossing the plains of our fair nation feels that way. Tom stayed behind in Winnpeg and flew out to Toronto for some other musical engagements. That left Ross and me with the task: getting home alive. We left Winnipeg the night after the gig, Sunday May 6th. Hwy 1 westbound driving as far as Moose Jaw, 645 kilometers away! Ross and I spent the night in the van. A bit cramped but free. The next day, we brushed our teeth at the local Tim Horton's and were off. We stopped for more coffee in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, getting it from the same Tim Horton's I got coffee at in 2002 when I worked on my second oil rig ever.
In one day we blew through Calgary, over the Rocky Mountains, through Revelstoke, bedding down in Sicamous, BC. The next day, Tuesday, May 8th, we hit Vancouver wearing the same socks etc as we wore at the gig in Winnipeg!
Gonna call that a trip! I will always have a soft spot for those prairie towns and to all the people who came out, paid without complaining, stayed all night, bought our CD's and bought us round after round after round.
Thursday, back at work after a road trip of a lifetime. The guys at work asked “How was your time off?”, to which I replied “oh, it was OK, I guess”. If only they knew.