Archive for June, 2008

2007 – Spain

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

But I think that I really should be talking about the end of the summer and the idea that one of these wonderful corporate gigs landed us in Barcelona, Spain, in a 5 star hotel for 5 days, with one show in front of a hundred traveling Canadians, who we got to meet after the show, and all week, really, as we were all in the same hotel. Scott Brown and I got familiar with the local transit train and we found our way around the big city, and for these days it was free-form tourism, Mediterranean swimming and shopping.

Lighting guy Craig Jager is the best tourist, of course, and a level-headed companion on any expedition. He is very well informed, has in built in GPS in his brain, and has great taste in architecture.

Richard Nott is a hoot as well, (no kidding!) and I hit the La Ramble at midnight with him, and we split up for an hour while I looked at chocolate and he got his chin pierced. We get back to the hotel later, and Richard goes back on the train, into town and sits up all night talking to some Monks in a Monastery. That’s Richard. There was an international music festival in the city, and more people than I have ever seen assembled anywhere. Literally thousands of people through the medieval stone walkways well into the night. I got lost a few time in the labyrinth of walls. It was like one big outdoor castle that you have to navigate your way through.

The first night we all went into La Rambla for pizza and snacks with the super drunk guy who got mugged, in the big cowboy boots. He was yelling at people on the street, which I thought wasn’t very good.

We all settled into the Spanish scene, I had a 88-key Korg Triton delivered to the ultra-grand hotel ballroom where the few thousand had gathered for our set, with gourmet food and jug after jug after real orange juice………

After our show, we went out and chatted with the people, which was a magical vibe, everyone so excited to be there in Europe and after a couple more days of touristing around great cathedrals, everyone went their own way, with the idea that we all meet-up again in Vancouver a month later. Ask any one of us what we did, and you would get some varied answers.

Craig went all over Europe, Ra all over Spain, Smitty all over Europe, Randy back home to Germany, Clayton has spent so much time overseas that I think he went back to Vancouver…Scott and I went North to Roses, a sea-side Spanish town, missing Richard at the train station, I dunno why, he just wasn’t there. Richard got lost on a Spanish mountain and ended up having a wonderful time in a beautiful village. Scott and I mellowed out on a beach, until I jumped on a train and drifted through France for a while.

Even after I got back home, I still felt like I was on a trip when I was sleeping. Kinda neat, I miss that now.

Barcelona....Scott, Craig and the gang out touristing......

The corporate people, LORDCO, (an auto-parts distributorship in BC and Alberta,) all went on a cruise ship into Italy…….

My new home, the train.

I didn’t know that there was a train strike on in France, and I don’t speak any language very well, but I did manage to buy enough tickets to sleep on train seats and wake up in really neat places. All by myself. Not in a sleeper car, mind you, but on a seat, a regular train seat. The whole thing was cinematic.

One place I fell in love with, of course, the South of France, indescribably beautiful. All the hype I have endured over the years, all just a touch of what this place really adds up to. The colours are all soft pastels, no metallic hues, I didn’t need to wear my glasses. The people are so fun, funny, loving and gracious. The buildings so grand,and the sea so cultured somehow, not the rugged BC coast that I hold so close to my heart.

It was a beauty that I had never imagined. There is no natural sand there, you know, in the Mediterranean at all. Any sandy beaches have trucks bringing the sand in. Nice has small smooth stones. It was the month of September and the water was warm and lovely. Nobody gawks at each other, like they do in Canada, and everyone wears whatever, or not whatever they want.

There are fresh water showers for the public, and this beach is HUGE, goes on forever. I took a break from the beach only to hop on a city bus to Monaco, to see the yachts and cliff-side seascapes. And then back to the beach. Yeah, could live there, for sure. South of France, cool.

At the foot of the South of France.......

My big dream was to have a violin lesson in France, and I walked around playing my intermediate scales in every town and village. I was finally approached on the beach after getting back into my civvies, from my skivvies, and lifting my backpack (I traveled with one backpack and one violin case).

It happened that a virtuoso violinist was also on the beach, a nice old fellow that I had heard of when I was a kid, and he showed me bowing technique and stressed the importance of that. You know that all is well on earth when this kinda thing happens.

Sunset at Nice

I love this city.

So now, yeah, I studied in France.  ;)d
But what I really wanted to do was see the site of Saint Bernadette’s Vision of Mother Mary in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains at Lourdes France.

So another train station, another overnight sleep and good-bye South of France. Hello small village with 250 hotels (I got a room at a youth hostel) at the second largest Catholic attraction on earth, what, 5 million people a year visit this town. What a trip, what shopping, I bought a ton of rosaries…….

Church-Merch...I bought a ton........

……and there is nothing I like better than a pilgrimage, and a good procession, of course, so with my pink plexiglass violin in hand, I follow a mob with banners and signs stating all points of destinations. This was a truly international crowd. And where we were going, I don’t know, but it was underground. Hallways……..Oh wow, this is the world’s largest underground cathedral, seating for 25 000 people, it was like a football game. And it is high mass, there is a swarm of priests, a huge pipe organ, choir, brass band, video screen, buckets of Lourdes water, thousands of wheelchairs, clouds of incense smoke…I love ritual.

Now THIS is a big church.........underground.......

But I got out, into the pouring rain, cause I wanted to go to the Grotto, the place of the vision, and the source of Lourdes healing waters,before this mob gets there. And because it was raining, I got a good photograph of the grotto with no huge crowd. You walk through, touch the stone walls, people are weeping, the vibe is electric. There is a pipe that disperses Lourdes water, french Spring water with miraculous healing properties, to dozens of faucets, I drank a ton of it,blessed my electric violin and yes it is a miracle that the thing still works.

This is about the coolest place I have ever seen, and the thickest spiritual vibe I have ever been a part of. It changed my life really. This water, I brought a liter of it home, and it sits here in my ‘fridge, frozen into a solid block. Nothing else in the fridge is frozen, mind you.

The Grotto at Lourdes, and my Hostel........

And then the candlelight procession, with thousands of flames around the sanctuary, me in tow, with an immaculate PA system and really cool live choir music. These people do this every night. The city FULL of wheel chairs, so much hope, so much faith. This is the real thing. And the walk back to the Hostel was steep twisty dark wet, cold and long.

By the time I got back to this wild little retreat, I was soaked soaked soaked. I had sent all my stage clothes and anything un-Mediterranean back to Vancouver with the crew. So I had 3 black stage T-shirts on, all soaked right through. No problem I take a shower…no towel… heat in the tiny room as I sort through the dozens of little bottles of Lourdes water, and I go to bed with a small tiny thin blanket and listen to the rain. And then it occurred to me, “Hey, Pilgrimages are not supposed to be easy!”

I had planned on going back to the grotto at 3am to see if the party goes all night, but I felt I need a break from that rain………

I think I should also mention that the whole time I was there, nobody asked me what I was doing there, or hit me up for money. I could see the security, serious security, big scrappin’ Italian dudes, but they were all very casual and hidden in the crowds. These people know their stuff. Very cool.

With the french train strike, and being sold the wrong tickets, and general bullshit, it was a miracle in itself to get out of there the next day, and I was told that there was NO WAY that I was going to get back to Barcelona in time for my flight back to Vancouver, despite it being only 140 kms and about 2 days away. So OK, time to think…… opposed to drift.

Easy, I got a train, a bus, another bus, to Toulouse, to an airport, and a flight to Amsterdam.

Fun Amsterdam

Wow is Holland ever cool! I just walked around eating beautiful cheese, playing violin , talking to everyone, laughing. I don’t smoke pot, or hash but if I did this was the best time to do so, but no, I just walked into cafes and jammed with their music. What a dream, and yeah I connected to Richard and Scott at the Amsterdam airport and went on the next 9 hours back to Vancouver with them. They were happy to see me, because I was kinda lost for a bit there.

I made a neat scrapbook of photos from this trip that I will bring out on the summer tour to show who ever likes to see holiday pix.

The last page had a huge THANK YOU to Trooper and while we are at it, thank you to LORDCO, for the gig.
Had a gas.

Road Letters cont’d

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Road letter #6:

I’m in montreal,I just flew in. I’m staying at the HILTON, my favorite hotel, but only for 5 hours, as there is a 5;40 lobby call to fly way up north to a reservation for 2 days.Played at some fancy persons family home in the prairies last night, fun, saw about 30 old black light posters from the ’70s in their work shop, which blew my mind, best collection I have ever seen……… this trip is pretty nutty, lots of flights. One month from today i will be in Barcelona ….

HEY we play a lot of corporate gigs these days, some with other bands, Loverboy, who play many of the same types of gigs as we, and are a riot to share the brotherhood with. Mike Reno is so fun, what a great singer, I stand right up front and just listed to his power and range, amazing. And Paul Dean (guitar player) is a great story-teller………corporate gigs are like private holidays for both the band and the audience. Great food, always the best hotels…….. so many good shows.
Road letter #7:
I swam in the ocean today, mid-July, dove into lake Okanogan a few weeks ago the day of a gig there, as a  new friend of the band, a great dude who owns the local music store, took us on a fast boat, other than that it is hotel pools coast to coast. But they are still so COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLD. Okanogan Lake was freezing, but you gotta go for it, don’t you?

And libraries. I love going to the local library in towns, seeing what people are reading. I love Black history month, and this year we were all at home to enjoy it. Tracy-Lyn and I volunteered for the gospel events, set-up tables, Tracy served at a buffet and we danced and I got some new insight into Black spiritual music. Inspiring, oh yeah. This is all stuff you can do for free if it you find it interesting, and I do.

Road letter output #8:

OK, 10-hour flight day, including stop overs, started up North Quebec, landed what, 4 times ? That is too many trips through security, only to see the Nairobi shooting club, all in suits get their guns from the carousel in the end………….oh lord, thank you for getting me off of those planes………At a best western now in an administration room in the hotel, midnight, have some tofu in my suitcase, just ate it. yum, what a nut, everyone else is starved, nothing happening……………YET………….

The first guy I met here was a CREE fiddler, so I asked him for lessons, went into his room and he showed me some neat stuff, fiddling is an actual living tradition here, everyone plays the same tunes, the same way, all by ear, nobody reads music, super old old school……..and this guy, it turns out, is the grand chief from the council, meaning that he is the main chief, the chief’s chief………the leader of the entire group of Cree nations…..and hey i was in this town 15 years ago, and it was so isolated, and people were so, what, I dunno…. timid. Now they all have cell phones, have had lots of big rock bands play, can get whatever they want, and now they are no longer so shy, that’s the word……………yes the world is changing, there far less secrets, everyone knows how everyone else lives, and we are becoming some kinda one big generic Americanish media culture………….for better of worse, who knows?

Good news is that some of these little towns are getting bigger WALMARTS out of the deal.

And i was concerned that there would be no food her, as sometimes is the case on very remote gigs, yet here we get set up with 3 meals a day in the cafteria of some huge construction company, enough food to kill our roadies…………..and the extra freight on AirCreebec is  $5 per pound………..and then they invite us to the island where their community used to be, before quebec hydro moved the entire town…and i sit in the back of a new ford escalade pick up thing down dirt roads, practicing a fiddle song that a kid just showed me on the street, then joined by a native gal in the box of the fab new pick-up, and we drive onto a barge that runs all day, no signs, just a barge to an island where about 4 people live, and drive to this ghost town reserve with half fallen-over ancient churches………whoo…..spooky…(for real)…….and look at grave yards, and i find the nice sandy beach, in the mouth of James Bay………and i go around the corner where nobody is and jump in, and get out and walk around in my baggy jeans and wet hair and cross from South Africa……. no shoes, all rocked-out, and someone says that I should go and sit inside  the tee-pee, which i do, and everyone is sitting in a circle around a fire, with a goose on a string hanging, slow cooking, and a really old Native lady sits quietly cooking bannock on a stick, telling stories, (quietly)and there is no smoke, and it is hot, and it is summer, and i have done some pretty neat things, but this was perhaps the most cosmic thing of the summer, for real, not a museum, actual real natives up noth in a teepee cos that is what they do, no rock and roll bullshit talk, just the water, sky, the birds…………..peace……………

………and we get back into the 3 trucks, and I chat with the most openly gay guy i have ever seen, and really the only gay native guy i have ever met,  he laughs at everything…………….and some French  Canadian roadies are there too, and i get back into the pickup, like i did when i was a kid, pull out the violin, and the big native gal starts yelling at the other trucks not to go any farther “cos there is nothing there!”, then she says that she has “never been this far up this road”, so we look and climb on a huge old rusty ship, and go farther down the road, and even Dennis, our big gracious and loving host, (the same age as me but looks 60) isn’t so regular at this beach, unbelievable… a mini Prince Edward Island beach..and I am a serious beach critic, and this one was the softest sand and it went on forever, so what do I do ? I take of the shirt and shoes and RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wheeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!…………..and i run as far as i can from everyone, until they are little specs on the beach, and i drop my drawers and run in. and it is cold!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is the mouth of
James Bay, and the first swim was more of the Chisasibi river, this one was more of the arctic or whatever silly ocean it is that fills the hudsons bay…cold………………..well, there is something to the old cliches about swimming in cold water, like first of all, that it is really COLD, but I swam around had a great time………….and i run back and jump into my pants and shirt and run around and end up back with everyone, who were all really far away and all giddy about seeing a porcupine walking around beside them……………

Well,  guess they thought i was the wildman of the day. I guess i could have gotten the cultural hint when the last people i saw were all bundled up like eskimos, ………so nobody could BELIEVE that i went in swimming…we all go back on the barge and i shake the sand out of my toes, and back to the cafeteria on the main reserve, …and i go back to the hotel, which is above a twighlight zone community hang out auditorium where old men play checkers VERY slowly, and up the concrete stairs and i take a quick nap, and we go on at whatever hour cos time isn’t of the greatest concern to some of  these guys………and i go backstage and our host says that the tribal band council had a meeting and they decided to name that beach GOGO BEACH.

So i guess they are Ok with me and my silly way of dealing with the JOY of being there. I have never had a beach named after me, quite an honour, and such a nice beach!

I don’t suppose they would let me move just a littel part of that Beach out West?………
And as a reult of that fun trip, the people are so kind that they have invited me to camp out there anyime, on Gogo Beach, anytime…………..and this in on a part of First Nations land that
is NOT open to the public. Something to write home about.

And I really like the chief of all chiefs, the main Cree of the world, the fine fiddler, i really like him a lot, and we will stay in touch……………

More 2007 Recap

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Yeah, we meet really neat people all the time, and that is about my favorite part of traveling. Not just industry people, but locals. 2 days ago, in Whitehorse, Yukon, as I walked outside to visit the paddlewheel boat that I could see from the hotel room window, and I walk along side the Yukon River to that National Historical site, I chat with a 90-year-old lady who has lived in Yukon since 1947. Brilliant person. I love to ask elders about their perspective, how impressions change, and how spirituality affects people over time.

And some famous people are cool too. The guys from Dr. Hook were our total buddies the previous gig in upper Edmonton, at a Lions Club Rodeo. I met the guy Vanilla Ice, and his groovy DJ outside of the hotel. We had some laughs. We were all pictured on the same laminate, and that was funny itself, anything is funny. Instant brotherhood with traveling music people. I stayed late to see their show, was fun, but I go back to the hotel for quiet, Clayton usually stays.

Have I even written about Clayton Hill ? I know his old bass player in Nanaimo and he told me “everyone who has ever played with Clayton says that he is the best drummer that they have ever played with………” And I go yeah yeah, groovy, but it ain’t a contest, and besides, have you heard the guys that I have spent the last 12 years staring at?

But, wow, what a great musical drummer! And a really funny guy, like a dry comic, and about the most honest guy I have ever met, meaning he always totally tells it like it is, despite any social barriers. Was kinda shocking at first for me, but I really admire that. He is not always trying to say the RIGHT thing, but in his approach, what he says IS right.

I totally enjoy his drumming, he really knows how to get a tone. He is so humble. Great singer, writer, guitar player. Not that he underestimates his talents, but he just doesn’t boast. That is my job, brag brag brag!

Of course Lance Chalmers is like that as well, (awesome and humble) and the 7 years I spent touring with Lance are some of my favorite musical moments of a lifetime. I do feel so blessed to play with some of the best drummers on earth like this, and to become such great friends with them, but I am so sentimental, and changing drummers is always an emotional experience. ……..And of course……… Frankie, one of the most influential and important people in my world over our great touring years. I still talk about Frankie all the time, he is SO funnny, and way more wild than I could ever dare to be. A total inspiration that way for sure!

I love these guys, and look up to them in so many ways. Drummers are agressive physical people, they have to be. I am not that way. I just stand there and go, yeah man!

Yeah, playing in a band is all about the people, the band people, the people who work at the venues, and the people we meet and dance at, smile at and sing at. It takes everyone to make this magical experience every night……….And the guy who drives the limo. In Yukon, the guy looked so much like my dad, Ken Gogo, (who passed away 5 years ago,) and I had to tell him so. He laughed, shaking his belly, his white beard and long white hair. He asked where Ken is from, I said, “Oh 3rd generation Nanaimo, but his grandfather was from somewhere along the Russian Border, Hungary, Austria?”

My fake Dad look-a-like suggested, “well he had white hair when he was born, right ? then it went dark, with some red, and white again, of course when he got older, that is the Finnish mixing with the Vikings……..” This coming from a guy driving an old black lincoln limo, looking exactly like my dad, at about 3 am whith the sun still shining.

I didn’t wanna tell him that my Dad has passed on. That could be bad mojo for a big old guy who drives around all morning.

Pretty-much everything on the road with Trooper is so surreal as that. So often Ra and I just look at each other, not saying a word, knowing that we both understand the moment. And I would suggest that Smitty is even funnier now than when I first met him, in 1985. He is way less high-strung, he just walks around being funny, and then playing some of the most experimental and mean greasy rock guitar by night. The guy is made of music, born to play.

And Scott Brown……….I guess at this point he is a veteran of the scene. And about the coolest dude and funkiest groovin’ bass monster in Canada.

I know tons of great guitar players, and a few bass players, and Smitty is like a King to all of them, including Scott. Never mind a veteran of the scene; Smitty is a Pioneer!

And I know some pretty darn fine rock singers too. And Ra is like the living professor who started the whole thing, and the man who keeps the flag flying as a huge inspiration to all of them.

These are the guys I play with.

And our crew is golden. I told you about Randy Bergner from Germany, the most technically-minded and big-hearted tech this side of Europe. He cares, almost too much. How many times I have seen him laugh so deeply, and so many times I have seen him steaming under all the pressure of steering this big heavy rock and roll ship on the road.

Makes us rock and somehow this rock can float like a bird.

Now, you know, we have Paul Cloutier back with us, soundman, road manager and full-time comedian. Probably the funniest guy I have ever met, because he is so consistent, and yes, he also tells it like it is. He called me down to his hotel room the other day and gave me a speech about his quest to cut about a thousand pounds off of our touring rig. This is a project that Mike Pacholuk , Dave Hampshire, Mike Sutcliffe and Randy Bergner have all worked towards over the last 10 years. (all road managers for Trooper) When I first played with Trooper, in 1995, filling in on a NewFoundland tour for Blaine Smith (keyboard player) wow, the stuff they carried then….Blaine had 2 keyboards, a stand and a rack the size of a ‘fridge, with a ton of nice lights. I have narrowed it down to ONE keyboard, the new YAMAHA weighing in at 10 pounds. Amazing!

But I gotta get a lighter and smaller case for it, if such a thing actually existed! My rig is so cutting-edge that the case manufacturers have not even caught-up yet! But Ra and Smitty bought me the most light-weight strong case, with wheels, and other than me replacing the handles………….the whole deal weighs 35 pounds……..and even Air Canada has to think that is amazing………

That is technology over time. Of course, Trooper live gigs has worn out 9 of my keyboards to date, and I keep replacing keyboards, and cases, and I now have a collection of useless cases, and it goes on……..(this, by-the way, is what rock musicians talk about when not discussing other musicians and funky clothing.)

Letter on the road #5:
…….the casino is owned by Caesars palace, or so I am told…and it is unlike any I have seen in Canada, bigger than all other Canadian casinos put together, as grand as any big Vegas monster in big monster Vegas, about 2 entire city blocks, HUGE, gigantic domed ceilings, statues, fountains, nobody under the age of 19 allowed in the entire complex, exercise facility that has never been used (no surprise) and our event was a gig in a ballroom full of people all dressed exactly the same, all employees of a HUGE distillery, all pissed as rats, eerie Zombies, really funny gig…..and I did walk away with about with about 20 MAD magazines from 1964 to 1975 from the comic book store. One is actually from the ’50s. Amazing, I have never seen one like that before, anywhere, even in museums. Not that I have been to many MAD museums, but of all people in this country, I am starting to look like the guy who should start one. I had high-graded 3 full cardboard boxes that had just arrived before the store owner had a chance to put prices on them. So I made a cash offer and walked off with this amazing stash of RARE MAD magazines. I look for vintage MAD magazines everywhere, and this is my best heist yet…..and then up at 6, and outta there  at 7am, 5-hour drive through Toronto multi-lane highways……onto airplane, flying on the anniversary of 911, and the security at the airport? They breeze me through no problem……4.5 hour flight, watched about as much TV as I plan to watch over the next month….and onto the ferry and suddenly FREEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

Free from sitting down, that is!

Wow, the weird summer so far, so many people, so much noise. Watching the sun set from the ferry deck, is HOT summer here on the West coast suddenly, and I get a free violin lesson for virtuosos that I meet on the ferry…cool! Home now, tired as a Zombie …..and loving it….

Over 50 flights last summer (mostly West Jet), and we have 16 coming up this next month. Yeah cases are a big deal. Gotta get ones that the baggage handlers can’t break, no matter how hard they try.

So yeah, here I sit in my Nanaimo studio, watching the ferries go, and the sun set, and planning to repair that latest case, because nothing better exists on the market, and Paul Cloutier, despite being very funny, is very serious about light-weight cases, and I gotta get this together.

Other than that, my Trooper responsibilities consist of  keeping healthy, not hurting my hand when building the rock wall, and keeping a good vibe all around. No problem. Yes, and getting to the airport in time. Scott Brown usually picks me up at about 4;30 am, then we grab Richard Nott and hit the first ferry.

Richard, of course, is runner-up for funniest guy I know. No matter what you throw at him, conceptually, he will add to it and make it huge. He is great with words, can stay awake for days, keep the vibe, eat like a giant, play funky guitar, and some say is the best guitar tech on the coast. I think we are so blessed to have him, of course we are.

First tour days are pretty long days. I love it. Richard is about the nicest guy to ride the ferry with.He is brilliant and loves to discuss world religion. He has a good grip on Catholicism, which I am quite deeply studying, but won’t talk about here…. I go to meditate in the church at 3 am on Tuesdays when we are at home, and I think it is really working. Of all the things I have tried, read about & studied, this is the one. OK…..I won’t go on here, but ask me sometime if you want to. Some things are more fun if you don’t go at them alone. And you go at them full-out.

2007 Road Letters

Saturday, June 28th, 2008


Road letter #2:
1:30 am, 5 hours until the lobby call for the next flight……about 3 or 4 thousand people outdoors tonight, but pretty far away ‘cos big stage and a big gap full of  volunteers with security shirts on, have never seen so many people with security shirts, a mob of them at the t-shirt booth, good gig, nice sandwiches, talked to a teenage girl who plays bass and a teenage boy who plays violin, and has no idea how cool it is, in fact because of my fun violin obsession,  i was called a “GEEK” by the wife or a promoter  who drove us to the gig in his big macho hummer truck, and I asked “what are you talking about?”, i couldn’t get an answer on my question of “if a violin has a stigma” , or any instrument for that matter…it’s MUSIC for Pete’s sakes!

A geek is actually someone who eats bugs and crap in a Victorian Carnival, I always thought,  not someone who plays and studies a beautiful traditional acoustic instrument, let alone the violin, the voice of god, for Pete’s sakes……(lucky guy that Pete)….but there i was in the back of this big silly car (which was actually kinda neat) On the ride I was trying trying to encourage this teenage kid to play more electric violin with his turntable band.

Anyway, i saw a wonderful movie on tv this afternoon about the baseball legend Babe Ruth, and John Goodman was the star of the movie, love that guy, great movie, brought a tear to my eye for sure…………yeah, i guess you can tell by my tone that i can use a week off, what the heck hey, by the winter i kinda start to miss all the people yelling all the time……..i do love big outdoor gigs…………and the best thing i did the whole time was stand on a sandstone edge by the ocean and watch the wild waves gently roll up and gargle under my feet, i can do that forever……

I made a list somewhere of neat people I had met over the last year, and Lord knows where that list is. I know I didn’t write about the Stanley Cup game we played at, the pro-hockey players we meet, the elevators full of championship football players………the Jerseys we got with our names on them, the Grey Cup shows for tens of thousands of people…….


Road Letter #3:
Right now i just wanna babble.Ok, past midnight here in a small town outside of Edmonton, in fact from the 6th floor hotel room I can see Edmonton, right behind the row of tee-pees, past the several hundred cars and trucks in the casino parking lot…this is a reserve, with a joint-venture casino hotel, between the Cree and some people from Vegas.So what we have is a REALLY nice Marriott Hotel, pretty-much up there with a Hilton Hotel, just a little less marble in the can.

I figure that I have averaged about 100 gigs a year since I started doing this kinda work as a teenager, and at this point I know a nice hotel when I see one, and count the pillow on the bed. Every grade of pillow, and soon I will put them all to the test.

So I leave home at 7:30 am to catch the ferry, sleep………two buses to the airport, sleep, and get here with a couple hours until we are to play in a HUGE tent, the size of an arena, attached to this big grand brand new hotel.So I go there to warm up my fingers on the keyboard a bit, see a HUGE stage with huge production, but nobody to tell us what the dinner deal is, because it’s gotta be awesome you know. I starved enough through the ’80s. Well, by B.C.-boy  standards. I take a look at the buffet in the restaurant, and it is really the most beautiful buffet I have ever seen, mainly seafood, and here we are a couple thousand miles from the sea ………….funny how seafood is always the deal in the prairie towns, kinda neat………but no time to get into it, because you can’t go onstage all stuffed, you know.

So I get ready, play the gig, and we are told that we broke attendance records, and that there are 1600 people there.Well, I have had great opportunity to become a crowd-counter, and I saw at least 3000, more like 4000 people……….so it was a constant roar, big rock show, place full of fog, spotlight over everyone’s heads, just like we all see in the movies, except this one is a bit louder, totally fun, and yes getting a bit hungry by then………..meanwhile backstage, beautiful sandwiches and veggies and I eat tons of fruit.

The manager, all happy, young guy, says “hey I pulled some strings and we have $60 steaks lined up for you!” and I think, “Ywow, but yuk, not my thing” but i decide to go along anyway for a laugh, and the casino is PACKED now with the after-concert crowd, huge party and I am getting pats on the back constantly, everyone so happy ………..funny perspective here in the eye of the Party, I guess……so we can order ANYTHING, as this beautiful restaurant stays open late, but closed , just for us…….So I ask for some nice seafood, anything, not too much, and he gives me some crab cakes…..and this is the real thing, open kitchen at the Marriott YAHOO!!! It is one thing to have this honour in a small hotel in a small town somewhere, but this is something quite special, this is big fancy big bucks kinda snackin’ at this kinda place, and here we are mowing it all joyously, and Richard, the guitar tech, man can he eat, and laugh, what a gas, a great moment for the all guys.


We meet the best people, at airports……………yesterday, Chilliwack, Smitty hung out with Fred Penner, today Charly Majors and his band, the bassist telling me about his cello studioes………trading tips and notes………

Riding in the back of pickup trucks up way up North, Limos in the City, learning singing technique with the singer from HELIX, hotel violin jamming with his band guys in the luxury hotel lobby in the wee hours…talking Gulf Island life with Barney Bental, laughing about hilarious whatever in the limo with the Deputy Prime Minister next to me, and I think, well. I shouldn’t play favorites, but I really liked talking with the singer from Blue Rodeo, Jim Cuddy, he sang with us in Ottawa outside of the Senators game, and I ran into him in the public washroom at the airport the next day. We sat and waited for the plane, he going East, I was going West, and we talked up and down about music, life, stage costumes, ambitions & inspirations. Really neat guy, if he lived closer I would want to hang out with him all the time.

I also enjoyed hanging out backstage at a theatre is Cobalt Ontario with Lee Marshal. I heard this big booming voice behind me, as I was attacking the deli tray, and before I turned around, I imagined what that voice would look like. Certainly not the big bearded long-haired forest-professor that I did turn around to greet! Lee is a broadcaster, and he is THE voice of CTV…..”this program contains coarse language and violence, viewer discretion is advised….” every time I watch Law and Order now, I say Hi to my new friend.

Letter of the road #4:

……….we were hauled of to see the “Gibson bus” which is a huge tour bus all done up with paintings and sculptures of Gibson guitars, bus has a studio, all wild custom guitar memorabilia, can’t believe they didn’t give me one :-) very strange, don’t know why we were there, but they sure took enough pictures, was fun, and then back to the buffet, which was “taken away” despite the caterers saying “it will be here until midnight”…so when April Wine and Loverboy arrived (who had been traveling all day), there was only ruit and cookies left for them….Sad I say considering there were THOUSANDS of people paying to see them………..Mike Reno, Loverboy singer, is a great big teddy bear that I love, everyone involved are real good friends, so we sat around ate cookies and fruit and laughed a lot…..

………. the sun it out and it is far less gloomy, i avoided getting hit by 2 cars walking the 1 block (with 3 crosswalks over here) …………… sister came out to the big awesome corporate gig
with her man, she somehow looks and acts younger than she ever has, since she was a teen, was really funny and had a really great time, we stood up front for Loverboy as I love to do. I can’t help but feel happy about everything………….

The gig the night before, for the super rich guy in the big massive masion part of town was a great festive blow-out…and  Scott Brown gets a text saying that the opening band, Glass Tiger, or was it a gig by the singer of, ?) has lost their bass player, it is a total tragic story; their bass player has a seizure, so they got an ambulance, so Scott and I hopped into a cab, found the palace, with blocks full of fancy parked cars, and walked throught the door, tons of cops (all hired as security) and there is a real live black womans gospel choir in robes, singing their hearts out along each wall of the grand entrance, I was quite blown away by that, thinking wow this is a class act!!!

………..the house had a red carpet from end to end, and big white shiny drapes covering the rooms where people shan’t be going, with the carpet leading past the pool, fireplace and into a HUGE white tent, all lines with white satin, covering the tennis courts, where the skimpy bikini girls played covered in chocolate and rows of caterers served what I could call Football food. Fries…big gross hot dogs (?), unspectacular sushi, average Canadian Chinese food and curry chicken or pepperoni-on-a-stick. Not so big on fruit, cheeses or veggie trays.

…The Glass Tiger guys wrote quick charts for Scott Brown and he quickly hit the stage, and I went up front to listen to his playing, which was great, so proud of him, yet the crowd TOTALLY ignored that band, embarrassingly so….or so I feel, anyway, but it wasn’t a concert, it was some kinda social, not a dance, but a chit chat, so the band wasn’t so loud, it was a background kinda situation, which performers of this caliber are not really designed for…..

…….so back downstairs to the dressing room (the house was a big 3-year old colonial-style 4 floor high ceiling monster) and I thought it was a big ol’ 100-year-old beauty……….and we were lead downstairs into the “TV room,” i guess, which was about 60 ft by 40′ with about a 30′ leather couch and a wall of projection TV with 4 other screens, which joins onto a full ultra-modern gym, sauna showers, massage room. Good place to relax, but both bands shared this space, which is also unusual.

The gaggle of real cops, and the army of servers, security and staff all make appearances in the giant TV rumpus room, and for a while it was a mystery as to when we are going on, but somehow we walk up the canvas-covered fancy stairs, around the pool (and it is raining like a demon) and past the fancy model girls and football stars and into the giant beautiful back-yard city party tent.

And the GOGO-dancers swayed, which I loved during my keyboard solo, and as soon as we got off stage, a car whizzed everyone away, but I stayed ‘cos the whole scene was unusual enough to be really interesting, and also, by then I had mastered the HUGE remote for the Giant projection TV thing. I figured that if I go to the hotel, that is what I would be doing anyway, and this was I can chat up the serving people and hear about their dreams and deep party chit chat..

I like the super rich house, but it certainly does not take away my love of my own homeland. So far away at this point in the night. And the guests all left, a mess, and we took a cab back to the Hilton, Theatre gig to follow the next night, and i have met 2 guys that have become friends who are coming out tonight, so that will be fun. This hotel is now FULL of football people, our floor is full of cheerleaders, every team in the league has sent all of their cheerleaders out…….they are very nice i am sure.

Ok, going for yet another huge freezing walk of this city


Saturday, June 28th, 2008


Letter I sent at that time to a friend:

………am in Sudbury now, checked into the Howard Johnson, is raining, have an outdoor gig ……..6-hour drive today, slept and made 2 mini-books ………..yesterday in Ottawa stayed in a really elegant Marriot right downtown with a 14th floor view of the parliment buildings, i was tired again, had a nap on the most luxurious bed with the nicest velour blue shawl, i think it is a blanket, i liked it so much that i bought one from the front desk to take home, is nice to have a collection of fave blankets for winter nights, or fall evenings by a campfire, or late summer in the hammock ……….

So I bought the hotel blanket, rather than just take one from Richard’s room hahahahahahahahahahahahahahah.

……so i did wake up and go for a walk around the vibrant capital city and it was so hot out,. SUMMER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   and i walked right into the Parliment building, got very politely kicked out, went to a white tent and got a free ticket for a walking tour, went through airport-styler security and enjoyed the wild architecture and brilliant limestone sculpitung of the huge stone masterpiece, including the library of parliment, with the best inlaid floor i have seen, what a hoot, took a swim and sauna at the hotel, the best 5 fastest elevators on earth, and then the limo arrived for the gig, a brand new lincoln SUV limo, high ceiling, the nicest car i have seen in years……….totally fun…

………..the gig,
outdoors had about 100 people, turned into several thousand when we started……………outdoors, mini-concert stage, surrounded by a carnival, 3 ferris wheels, unbelievably beautiful…………after the gig, the people at the t-shirt booth were really polite and complimentary, so i guess we are finally back in the modern world…… i met a girl and her boyfriend and their other friend, and invited these really fun alive and funny people on a free trip through the carnival, one of my best tricks, to get free rides after gigs, hahahahah, well, I get invited, so it isn’t really much of a trick, just an honour…..first on the ferris wheel, joined by drummer bass player and 3 others, it was a real 1970s fun hang out with people you dont know, all instant friends..and i NEVER go on anything other than the ferris wheel, this time, the drop of doom, a new huge beautiful swing thing, the boat that goes insane and 2 rounds of bumper cars…..and
then free pizza………back to the hotel……SLEEEEEEEEEP…..

…………what a great great day……….and tomorrow the closing of the Pacific Nationl Exhibition in Vancouver wheeew.big profile gig……..for real…ok, gonna find a can opener, or go to the grocery store and get a new one, add it to my collection back home, still have the food i bought for the trip to the reserve up north……no point in just looking at food…..

I have been playing in 3 different rock bands over the winter, mainly to play more electric violin live, which is also really fun for me, such a difficult instrument, but somehow I enjoy the challenge. I need a challenge, and it is pretty hard to fake a violin, especially at rock band volume. It cuts above everything. I also play a one-hour accoustic set every week for special needs kids, when I can, is a challenge to get them to all focus, but wow can they dance! Got those wheelchairs a-shakin’.

I suppose that after 10 years of Trooper road reports, I need a little break just to relook at some stuff. The reports to date I am very proud of, and I always wanted them to be at a certain standard, which sounds funny, but for me writing is a lot of effort, you know, I am not a real typist, and a terrible speller.Sloppy. And It is really tricky writing about a rock band on the road and not offending anyone, which I do not wish to have happen. Sometimes I would send a report to H to post, and the only response was from someone angry about something I had said, which was TRUE, so I ask H to edit, and yeah, that takes a bit of the fun out. One guy was not happy that I didn’t spell the name of his town fully, and used initials. Am I complaining, no,  just being honest, which I always wanted all the reports to be.

Everything I write is true. May not be how everyone else sees it, but this is all pretty real for me, in a life where I prefer to float over details and let the spirit move everything along. But sometimes my little truth is a drag for some people, and not very entertaining. I mean I was the guy who had to pull a dude out of the ravine and drive him home after the gig, and I can’t say his name ? He is also one of my best friends for life, so no, I can’t…and I shouldn’t have. (No offence, just first example that came to mind.)
Sorry, I tell stories the same way I would around the campfire, believeing that anyone who wants to go to a Trooper show, or read this stuff is in on the brotherhood………….

I have actually gotten people in trouble in their careers by saying funny things that happened to them, that I was later told, I shouldn’t have told a name. I should not have mentioned the airplanes…….I can’t get disclaimers from everyone, about everything. And it has affected my thinking. Stuff happens at airports, this airline grilling us on a detail, and I shouldn’t write about it, ‘cos it is businees and not entertainment at that point. The only reason I have ever written a road report is for the heck of it, and it has to be fun for EVERYONE, including myself.

I don’t want to upset anyone, and I don’t want all my paragraphs to start with “I’.

So what I think I’m gonna do is not try to be so clever, and just let it fly from now on. I will take notes on the road and just blast it out like I am here, as Tracy talks to the cat, the computer hums and the cat wants yet more food.

Wow! Remember me ? I remember YOU!

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Tracy-Lyn and I are taking the night off, here in the fabulous SUNPORCH studio…….. know that Nanaimo is the SUNPORCH OF CANADA…
………..we just cruised into town for pizza.
RAISE A LITTLE HELL was playing there,
even on a tiny speaker, it made me proud.
So I thought I should write……….

Mr. Chriss (my life-long buddy) has a huge air compressor in his wine shop. He says that every time it kicks on, it sounds like the opening chord for “Raise A Little Hell”. We are everywhere, I tell you!

I do love the band. It’s been so long since the last road report, I don’t even wanna look and see how long, but time doesn’t exist so I guess it doesn’t really matter, other than I miss hearing from new friends at the T-Shirt booth after gig, how much they got a laugh out of the last road report. It has been over ten years that I have been writing here, you know, and this report has a pretty wildly huge readership. And everyone who read it is likely a Trooper fan, right? So they can’t all be so bad! It’s been my plan to update; I even looked through a huge box full of papers, I know that I have a ton of old road paper notes:.scribbles from the tour vans, buses and limos……….

— sings stan Rogers
— $800 watch thrown into parking lot
— kids beyond barricade
— crew there huge lasagna
— kids had to pay for every room that complained about the noise they made

..tons of this, papers full of momentary expressions of wildness…….
……but what any of it means, and when it fits into the story, I dunno.
But I do know WHY…because it’s fun!
Details: I dunno.
Live for the moment…and it is one big wild moment on the road.
Being on the road with trooper is one long funny event.
Cutting it into bits and transferring to word on a computer screen has always been a challenge.
Ok, challenge me!

I think that I lost my groove on the road report after a summer tour when an entire report, which I worked on and detailed on the days off, got mysteriously deleted. I told you about that, I know. That did kinda break my spirit. And it is difficult to recapture stories after a tour, when I get back, in the summer, when everyone is nude and jumping around into the sea. Or the river, or the lake. The party does not end at the airport, for any of us.

I still don’t bring a computer on the road, in fact I am the one guy in 8 who doesn’t. And this old mac (…he plays one.he plays nick-nack on my bum………) here has No spell check, and most websites are white, YOUTUBE doesn’t even work anymore. So why don’t I just get a NEW ONE!!!!!!! Come on Gogo, I will walk you the 3 blocks to London Drugs!

……..Just haven’t, yet, I’m restoring old violins…..having my old synthesizer collection rebuilt, dwindled down to about 20, after I dumped the ’80s and ’90s synths… has been observed that I must enjoy restoring stuff back to life……. in fact the TIMES COLONIST newspaper in Victoria is writing an article about my groovy old keyboards this week. (Article links: 1, 2) And I am likely to haul a load of drywall over to Protection Island tomorrow. I like to do some things the old-fashioned manual way, for now, for the EXPERIENCE of doing it.  Lots going on…..real estate deals…….boat being rebuilt……….nice avoiding the computer issue hey……….I think there is a word for people like that.

And I can say that I have not been chatty, taking a vow of silence every night, but I did manage to post 1852 stories and comments, cartoons and funnies onto my favorite electric violinist’s fan forum (Eddie Jobson) and in doing so made new friends from all over the world, great friends too. And I think that by being so supportive, I made a nice impression on Eddie himself, who just sent me his 1974 Barcus Berry Blue electric violin as a gift of appreciation. It has a broken neck, resulting from a theatrical stage event, and I love it. I think that one of the greatest things a person can be is supportive of those who you respect. And I respect everyone equally, or I try.

I would like to be more giving as well, and it is becoming an actual hang-up……….but let’s not talk about that.

And I get tons of inspiration from those whom I admire. The stuff I learn from the guys in the band, and in being a fan of a great violinist, I am inspired to get up early and get 3 hours violin practice in every morning before thinking about anything else. Any other playing and recording after that is bonus. This is my kinda fun.

I walk around town playing scales. At this point, I have been the violin street-walker in many great Canadian towns. People smile, honk. And I am NOT doing this for attention, I just don’t wanna sit in a hotel room for several hours when I can be outside. I spent my kid and teen years sitting at a piano, like a big ol’ desk job that you don’t get paid for, now I just wanna go outside like the other kids, so I picked up a portable instrument. Life can be liberating if you let it.

I tried walking around and playing scales and arpegios when I was 14, to and from school,  and some greasball yelled at me , called me a fool, and it seriously broke my spirit. I gotta stop letting things get to me, doncha think.

I try a lot of things over the years, lots of looking into different religions, ideas, connections to things that I consider to be great or important, and this winter having taken a far greater interest in the one I grew up in which is the Catholic Church, with a very deep and rich culture. Both sides of my family are Catholic back hundreds of years, my Mom’s side traceable to 1400 whatever…….My mom was honoured last Sunday for having played organ at the same church (and 12 at another one before that). So yeah, that is the music, the culture and the dedication I grew up with, and I enjoy it these days, good people, and our new priest in a young Polish fellow, really cool. I like him, I feel that he is actually a real holy man, and that makes all the difference. A parish need a good priest like a rock band needs a good lead singer. I can talk on about this when I see you, if you want. Not right now, or we will never get onstage…..Is all fun.