This Hobo Travelogue's coming to you from my friend Lisi's cabin on Lac St. Anne, Alberta, the place I holed up back in February when I was writing songs for the new album. It's perfect to be back here now, as I'm recording the remaining lead vocals and a few leftover bits of guitar, settling on the wording for the last few songs, and tracking a brand new one that I wrote during my run in the Pacific Northwest last month. It's doubly wonderful to see summer arriving on the lake, with gulls and geese and bugs and boats where last I saw only frost-gleam and ice-fishing shacks.
Next week I'll be back in Edmonton, recording Bram's last parts for the album, and working up some songs with Pamela Mae for our trip across the country this summer. Before we leave, though, I'm headed up to the biggest reunion of my year, back among the throng at my home festival, the North Country Fair. My big band The Long Weekends are playing Thursday at 9pm on Main Stage, and I'm closing out the festival with the Second Chances on Sunday at 4:30pm on Main Stage. If you've never been, maybe it's your year to discover that crazy magic. The following Wednesday I'll be hosting the twelfth(!) annual North Country Fair Afterbender at the Empress, and then hitting the road across Canada with a wide-eyed Pamela Mae, who'll not only be on her first journey across Canada, but also on her first ever tour! All my dates and deets, as always, are on my news page, but here's the long story made short:
Thu-Sun June 20-23 • Driftpile, AB • North Country Fair with the Long Weekends
Wed June 26 • Edmonton, AB • North Country Afterbender with the Long Weekends and guests
Thu June 27 • Saskatoon, SK • Capitol Music Club
Sun June 30 • Winnipeg, MB • Sunset Saloon house concert
Tue July 2 • Thunder Bay, ON • Corbett Creek Farm barn concert
Thu July 4 • Sault Ste. Marie, ON • house concert
Fri-Sun July 5-7 • Orillia, ON • Mariposa Folk Festival!!!
Wed July 10 • WHERE SHOULD I PLAY in SOUTHERN ONTARIO???
Thu July 11 • Toronto, ON • singing a few as a guest of Corin Raymond at the Cameron House
Fri-Sun July 12-14 • Okemah, OK • Woody Guthrie Folk Festival
Mon July 15 • Ottawa, ON • house concert
Thu July 18 • Fredericton, NB • Tipsy Muse Cafe
Fri-Sun July 19-21 • Rollo Bay, PE • Rollo Bay Fiddle Fest
Tue Jul 23 • Mount Stewart, PE • Trailside Music Cafe with Liz Stringer
Fri July 26 • Halifax, NS • The Carleton
Sun July 28 • Crousetown, NS • Petite Riviere Winery w/ Morgan MacDonald
Pamela's flying homeward after that, to play Blueberry Bluegrass Festival with her band the Strawflowers, and I'll be making my way southward into the States to play the Lounge Stage and the Emerging Artist Showcase at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in New York, then homeward via Michigan and Trout Forest Folk Festival in Northern Ontario. If there's anywhere along the way you think I should really make a stop, please drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org and hopefully we can make it happen!
My run around the Pacific Northwest in May sure was lovely, thanks to the open-hearted people who came out to hear the songs and all the kind folks who took such good care of me. Seriously, I think this last tour set a new high-water-mark for healthy feeding and luxurious sleeps. Not one couch or air mattress on the whole run, and no fast food! What is this life?!?
I arrived at my house concert hostess' place in Eugene to see a Bernie Sanders 2016 sign in her front yard, and knew I was in good company. As the folks were arriving (some who knew me from Sisters Folk Fest, others through the hostess Sadie's admirable work in spreading my music around), I complimented one lady on her Bernie 2016 t-shirt, and wondered aloud if there were 2020 ones out yet, only to have a lady named Donna show me hers, in purple. I got pretty excited about it, I admit. Five minutes later she came back wearing a different shirt, borrowed from a friend, and GAVE ME THE SHIRT OFF HER FREAKIN' BACK! People are so kind.
In Olympia I was happily reunited with my Taiwanese friend Kimmy, who used to own our family bar, The River, in Zhongli. My old bands The Anglers and The Smoking Cones jammed there on Thursdays for years, and I was a sorry kindergarten teacher on many a Friday as a result. I was expecting a small crowd, but the venue (Traditions Fair Trade and Cafe) has a strong following, and again, as at most of the shows, Sisters Folk Festival-goers brought their smiling faces too.
In Salem I played for a younger crowd, which rarely happens to me these days, and saw what everyone else has been saying about CD sales ;) The crowd was lovely, though; mostly friends of my new friends Nick and Raquel, who organized the show, and who I'd also met at Sisters. The bar actually printed up menus with a couple cocktails they invented for the occasion: the "Pass It Along" (vodka, blackberry fig, eucalyptus, and black pepper) and the "Fellas, Get Out the Way" (gin, lavender, violette, lemon, and champagne).
On a free night in Portland, I found out that the great BC poet Shane Koyczan was playing at the Alberta Rose Theatre, so I went to see him. As I mentioned in the last Travelogue, playing alone on this tour took some getting used to, feeling somewhat vulnerable without a band to blow people's hair back. But here was a guy alone on a big stage, taking us on a journey with just his words. I laughed hard, I cried, I laughed and I cried again. At the end of the show I was such a weepy, emotional mess that I split rather than wait to say hi to Shane. But I was incredibly grateful for the gift he gave all of us in that room, by opening his heart for us, and giving us permission to open ours. He let fly with eloquent words of resistance, at the end of a week when some of the most regressive abortion laws in history had been passed in the Southern states and the White House blatantly defied lawful subpoenas from Congress. He gave voice to our rage. And he talked a lot about his Grandma, who raised him and was his favourite person, and reminded us of all the unsung good and heroism in the world.
If you don't know Shane's work, or even if you do, here's just one of many bursts of brilliance from his pen: "How To Be A Person"
Also in Portland, I met up with fellow Taiwan-alumni singer-songwriters Dawid Vorster and Nathan Javens, and was amused by the ever-evolving Portlandian delicacies like rhubarb & bone marrow ice cream, IPA ice cream, and a CBD-infused kettle sour. At the Alberta Street Pub, I got to share the stage with Beth Wood (who's much of the brains and heart behind Sisters' Song Camp) and Ara Lee, who perform as a huge-voiced duo called Stand and Sway, and got a pound of great coffee out of the back of a minivan from our doorman for the night, a singer of infectious pop songs named Phil Ajjarapu.
There was a fair bit of zigging and zagging in my routing, but I enjoyed all the roads, especially the 101 along the coast. Even the I-5 isn't bad, winding through greenery most of the way, and as always in America, I pause whenever I can at the roadside rest stops. I've loved them since I was a kid, from our family's big road trips across the States, but I love them even more now, for the temporary respite of treeshade and birdsong beside the freeway, and the reminder of the old socialist dream of an America for everyone that still lingers there.
My last weekend was spent on the San Juan Islands, thanks to Sisters Song Campers JoAn Mann, Phil Paige, and Mandy Troxel, who also opened three of the shows. We got a lift to the show on Shaw Island on some locals' fishing boat, a first for me. After the show we went to an afterparty at a local's place, and I'm pretty sure all twenty or so people who were at the show were also there. We hung out for half an hour before it was time to load us all up in cars and head off to catch the ferry back.
On Lopez I had the pleasure of watching goats out the window while I sang at the local Grange hall, and on Orcas I sang on the same Grange stage that's on the cover of Emmylou Harris' Blue Kentucky Girl album. Every night on the islands there were cookies! And at every show there were open-hearted folks who wanted to talk. Lots of people are worried about their country, it seems now more than ever. But lots of people are also working on making it better in whatever way they can. And I'm resting my hopes on people like that.
Happy summertime, northerners! Pals down under, I'll come see you in the spring. Wherever you are, keep working on making it better in whatever way you can. Love and luck,