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Thoughts and musings by members of the Arrogant Worms

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Home Sweet Home 

It's good to be home. We don't have a lot to do in the next little bit except for a few shows in Ontario. Maybe I'll get some writing done. Or maybe I should take a vacation. Or maybe I should get my bike tuned up. Maybe I shouldn't put away the snow shovel just yet. Maybe I will cheer the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup victory. That sounds like a great idea.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Last Day of the Tour 

It’s the last working day of the tour. We’re on the ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver. Today we’ll do two shows at Capilano College and that will wrap up the big western tour of 2004. Just before we fly out on Monday we’ll tape a segment for Richardson’s Roundup on CBC Radio that will air on Tuesday afternoon. We will have done 13 shows in 14 days and played to over 6000 people. Goodness gracious. That’s a lot of you. Thanks for coming to the shows and making this our biggest and most successful tour ever. We’ve had a great time playing the new songs for you and in some cases, hearing you sing them right back to us. That’s always a little odd when people know the words to the new songs so soon after the album is available. Good on ya!

Just want to say that the Port Theatre in Nanaimo, BC is one of the best rooms we’ve played in. They even let me do my laundry there. Good people and a great theatre. All you Nanaimo-itians should be proud.

Can’t wait to get home and read my mail. I may already have won.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Pender Harbour, BC 

Two shows since I last wrote, Victoria and Pender Harbour last evening. BC has a different vibe than the rest of the country. On the one side, it’s very laid back because the scenery is so beautiful and peaceful. On the other hand, there’s a real edge to it. Yes, it’s very pretty, mountains and ocean and rocks and trees and stuff. And living in a remote area is very appealing though somewhat impractical for many. By the way, we took a look at real estate prices here and you won’t get anything on the water for less than $500,000. That should keep a few people who know about it away. And that fault line nearby…

We had thought we had easy travel days ahead of us. Unfortunately, Pender Harbour turns out to be on the Sunshine Coast which for those who haven’t been here is on the mainland of BC, but because of the coastline is only accessible by ferry. So after Victoria we had to drive to Nanaimo, take a ferry to North Van, turn around and get in line for the ferry to Langdale, then drive an hour up the coast. Today we get to do the entire trip in reverse. Our booking agent has been cursed in the van many times. Damn you Dana!!!!

I know, boo hoo. Like other people don’t have jobs where they travel. I’m sure all the truckers and bus drivers have real sympathy for whining like that.

The Victoria show went very well. We have probably our youngest crowds in Victoria (which is kind of ironic given what a large retirement community is there) and so the shows are very raucous and we are treated like rock stars. Some of the kids are really cute as they get very shy when it comes time to ask for a CD to be signed. Don’t worry folks, we rarely bite. Sure there’s biting satire…

Also got to hang out for a bit with our friend Adrian from the Bill Hilly Band. Sorry, the Bills. They thought that the name “Bill Hilly Band” gave a wrong impression. They didn’t seek any advice from “The Arrogant Worms”. He chose a fine restaurant and we ate and gossiped like the little schoolgirls we are.

Last evening’s show was an odd one. After our long day of ferries and driving we finally got to what we thought was the right place. However, we had very limited directions and around here one can’t see much on the road ahead. It’s all very pretty except that the mountains and the trees spoil the view. We found out later that the road was actually a goat path that was paved. There were some goats on the side of the road that are wondering where the grass went. I imagine that could be somewhat disconcerting of you’re a goat. However, I’m sure that’s where most of the lifestyle concerns end for the average goat.

The venue itself was about a 20 minute drive though we could see it clearly across the bay. If only we’d had a boat. Or a big catapult. I guess we could have blown up the tires and really gunned her. We got there on time but our sound guy for the evening, Les, wasn’t there yet. Les had gone to get some lights and a carpet. Les returned and we began setting up. He set up the lights and we pretty much did the sound by ourselves. Including the carpet. It’s very difficult to mix the front of house sound when you’re on the stage performing. But Les was busy fixing the lights. There were 2 lights. He got them fixed at eye level pointing directly at us. Okay for the audience. Not so good for our corneas.

We saw Les again at 7:45 pm as he was searching for more chairs (the show had sold well). He then said, “Well we’ve got 15 minutes, want to head over to the Legion for a quick one?” We declined. The show started and Chris’ mike wasn’t working. After a bit of the standard “Check check” we asked if the mike was working. Les replied, “I could use a little more”. He then kind of watched for a while. We decided to just start the show with 2 mikes and hope for the best. This isn’t easy for us as I’m a bit taller than Chris and a lot taller than Trevor, plus with both Chris and I playing guitars there’s a risk of getting a guitar neck in the human neck. During the song someone from the audience helped him set up a new microphone for Chris which worked.

We never knew who this man was.

We’d like to thank him. Perhaps he was part of a secret Pender Harbour rescue squad. Maybe he was the mayor. I hope he’s at all of their shows.

But the show went very well and all seemed to enjoy themselves. Sound is always a problem when you’re touring. If you want absolute control over the sound one needs to carry your own gear and someone to set it up and run it. These things cost money. Many of the venues we play have their own sound gear and people who are very experienced in operating it so we find that it’s worth letting them handle it. But it does mean we sometimes get situations like last night. If the sound is wonky, we tend to just bash right through the show; our theory being that the more you draw attention to a problem the more of a problem it becomes.

Trevor won a cookie today. Tim’s batting averages:
Mike .250 Trevor .222 Chris .000 team .133

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Ferry Dust 

I’m on a boat right. A ferry. Not the Wolfe Island Ferry but a very nice ferry nonetheless. We’re on our way from Vancouver to Victoria. Todd Bertuzzi is very sorry. The Vancouver media has been a bit obsessed in the last couple of days. One more week of analysis and bad press for hockey and maybe this story goes away for a while until the Canucks flame out in the playoffs which will be followed by more analysis and conjecture. Then if there is a labour stoppage in the NHL next year, we can talk about the Bertuzzi for many more months. What a country.

So we’re going to Victoria. We last played there about 18 months ago and it rocked. We expect it to rock again. Good times. I’m going to go outside now and enjoy the weather while it lasts. I hope I see some dolphins. We did last year. Dolphins are cool. Todd Bertuzzi is sorry. All is well.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Vernon 

Into the mountains of BC we go. However, thanks to our laziness and some decent fares from Westjet we flew to Kelowna and will fly to Vancouver tomorrow. Figured we’d deal with any March storms on the prairies but no mountain passes.

That’s one of the things about touring in Canada which is well documented but still true. Canada is really friggin’ big. Someone should write a song about that. It’s a bad country to have to tour. When we started out in this business we’d drive everywhere. We had tours which would be Calgary – Ottawa – Kingston – Winnipeg – Vancouver. We’d drive because otherwise we wouldn’t make any cash. But because we were just a 3 piece group we could make money doing this but it was tough. It’s stupid and it’s dangerous. We survived and nobody’s quit in years.

I’m very happy to be in one spot today as it’s NHL trade deadline day. I’m an Ottawa Senators fan and this is going to be our year but deals are always fun. Last year we had a show near Owen Sound on deadline day and I was able to listen to a sports radio station for most of my drive. It was a Toronto station of course but as a Sens fan, listening to the Toronto Cup parade plans is always fun. We just got Greg De Vries for Karel Rachunek. Never really liked Rachunek. I was a very happy boy when the Senators got Peter Bondra. He’s been one of my favourite players in the league for years. I even went to 3 different Ottawa-Washington games over the years and he was out for all 3.

I like that all three of us can contribute to the Blog. That way I can find out what Chris and Trevor are thinking. So far, it appears that Chris is thinking only of his pants and Trevor isn’t thinking of anything. As I always suspected.

Monday, March 08, 2004

St. Albert, AB 

Int. Hotel Room – Morning

Man sits at computer writing. Regis and Kelly twitter away on the television. Man is writing in the blog for his band. He writes…

“Good Day. It’s a beautiful day in St. Albert. We’ve just wrapped up our two nights at the Arden Theatre. Both shows were awesome with outstanding audiences. Three encores last night. The evening was kind of bittersweet though because that was the end of our touring with Ben Sures. We had a great time with Ben for the last six shows. He’s a wicked guy and a great talent. If he’s playing anywhere near you, do get out and see him. Check out www.bensures.com for more info on our new best friend.

We’re off to Vernon today. We’ve got five shows left on the big tour.

Have a nice day.”


Man flips channels. Outcast video comes on TV. He dances around the room and shakes it like a Polaroid picture.


Sunday, March 07, 2004

St. Albert, AB. Not Edmonton, but nearby 

Tim’s batting average: .105. Showing a steady slide. Maybe we should take more pitches.

Today is an exciting day because we get to spend a 2nd day in the same town. Any day without travel is exciting. It means one can kill time in whatever manner one likes: sleeping, eating, reading, shopping, etc. Sure I suppose some acts would try to find a way to be productive with the time. Bah.

We’ve never been ones who get much done creatively on the road. Other than Scrabble of course. I’m pretty sure I have a game of computer Scrabble which I got from a Cheerios box. I’ll have to practice. We often get ideas for songs and bits on the road but rarely complete them. Individually, I’ve never had any luck writing songs while traveling. Part of it is lack of discipline, the other part is that touring turns my brain into a soft, pulpy mush.

The only exception to the above was last fall at the Banff Centre for the Arts. We did a 3 day residency there with the hopes of getting some songs finished for the new CD (which became “Toast”) In that time, several songs got finished (I seem to remember “American”, “Cuban Friend”, and “Coffee”) and others got arranged and learned so that by the time we left we had pretty much all of the songs that ended up on the CD done. Then we forgot to thank the Banff Centre on the CD credits. Us bad.

Thanks to the Banff Centre for the Arts.

There. For anyone who has purchased “Toast” please print that line, cut it out and paste it on the CD jacket. It’ll be more valuable. Wait.

And Kurt Bagnell.

Add that too.

Last night’s show went great as well, though it was much more restrained than the previous evening. The Arden is a wonderful theatre with a tremendous staff. The tech crew is great (one of them fixed my tuner) and they do all the little things that make you feel welcome. The dressing room had towels and soap and a chocolate for each of us (We all devoured the chocolate as we forgot lunch) the dinner is always good, the green room is large and nicely furnished so you actually can relax before the show. There are lots of posters from previous years up so it’s fun to look around and see who’s still at it and who’s in the “Where are they now?” category. They have a Celine Dion poster as well as a great poster of Hart Rouge from their pop star days.

We were reminded before we went on stage that we were in St. Albert. Not Edmonton. St Albert is north of Edmonton and could be construed by some to be a suburb of Edmonton. No. St Albert is unique and distinct and is not Edmonton. We succeeded in remembering for the entire show that we were in St Albert.

Not Edmonton.

Though Edmontonians were allowed to come to the show. I think they did.

It’s a local phone call to Edmonton.

Tonight will mark our final show with Ben. He’s been excellent. When Trevor spoke with him about coming along on this tour he was told the most important thing would be that he had to amuse us. He has been amusing. He’s promised to make sandwiches for tomorrow’s trip. I may keep mine as a memento.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Calgary 

It’s the morning after the night of the new pants. I had to buy new pants because I split a pair doing a stupid rock and roll jump in Regina. My new pants were $10, which for me is pretty steep. They performed well. Also performing well was the audience in Calgary. Almost 1200 strong. That’s a record for us. It was an extravaganza. Well done, Calgary. We’re off to the burbs of Edmonton today for two shows at the Arden Theatre tonight and tomorrow. I’m hoping that my Tim Hortons cup rims will yield some free stuff – like a plasma TV. Mike and Trevor can have their free coffee but I’m gonna win a TV.

I’m blogging.


Calgary 

A record setting show. The most tickets ever sold for a single concert with just us (close to 1200). Thanks to everyone for making it possible. I’d like to thank the Academy and say the plight of the hamster is being ignored.

The Jack Singer concert hall is a beautiful venue and the show went really well, principally because of the crowd. Having a thousand people in a room wanting to have a good time makes our job pretty easy and it’s pretty much impossible not to be psyched when you walk out there. Chris had purchased new pants. I think he plans to add to the site today so I’ll leave a more detailed description of the pants to him.

Considering all the different venues we’ve played in over the years it’s pretty cool to get to a point where enough people want to see us that we can play in this kind of hall. The seats are comfortable; the sound is nearly perfect, the sightlines are good. It’s all good. Huzzah.

Pet peeve of the day: Banks
When we’re on the road much of our compensation is in cash. We have a couple of bank accounts which we have had since the beginning of the band. Did you know that if you deposit over a certain amount of cash you have to fill out a form explaining where you got it? So I just deposit cash into bank machines. Ooops, there’s a daily limit on that as well. DO YOU WANT MY FRIGGIN MONEY OR NOT? If some corporate weasel type comes in and asks to borrow half a million you’ll probably give him a chair and a foot rub but if I come in to give you money you treat me like a criminal.

However, if I keep it in a sock I’ll lose the sock so I’ll continue to do this and be inconvenienced.

BUT IT DOESN”T STOP A RAGING FURY INSIDE WHICH MIGHT ONE DAY BE RELEASED IN A TORRENT OF REALLY IMPRESSIVE SOUNDING LANGUAGE! I SHALL TAUNT THEE IN MUSICAL RHYME!!!

There. That’s better.

Tim’s batting average .133 as a team after another 0-fer day. We’re rapidly approaching the statistical average after a strong start.

Trevor is becoming a force in travel Scrabble. I am not.

Somewhere between Regina and Calgary 

Last night’s show was in Regina and I sucked. No I freely admit it, I was poor. Played guitar like crap, sang poorly and my banter between the songs was incoherent and unfunny. Not even funny bad, just poor. Hard to figure out why, it was the first day where I actually got some sleep, had a nice breakfast and dinner and then went out there and sucked. People seemed to enjoy the show and that’s a real relief and a testament to how good it is to be part of a trio rather than a solo act. Or perhaps it shows how insignificant a piece I am when I can’t even bring the entire show down.

I was having guitar problems initially and this really threw me. I’ve been using a new guitar recently (A Godin A6 for those guitar geeks out there) and several times it’s made a horrible noise during the show which we haven’t been able to figure out. It’s something to do with the input jack and I thought it was due to a loose contact. I had a technician look at it in Ottawa and he re-soldered things and checked it out and said it was fine so when it started happening again I was plenty pissed. Well, the tech in Regina (Paul) took the jack out and found a piece from a broken string in it. We plugged it back in and it worked fine. So a piece from the string I broke in Winnipeg was shorting it out. ARRRGGGHH!

Some nights are like that, you just don’t have it. I was really thrown by the guitar not working and got very distracted. During “New Car Smell” I forgot the chords during the bridge. Eventually I just stopped playing until we got to a part I knew. By this point I was playing Ben’s guitar so it wasn’t the guitar’s fault. Then when it was my turn to introduce a song I would just draw a blank. I’d talk for a bit and then run out of things to say and just look around blankly. Like I said, a stellar performance.

Oh well, tonight will be better.

However, the show wasn’t without highlights. The week before we had met the mayor of Regina at a TV station in Ottawa (we were both appeariong on the same show) and one of the staff knew of the band. We exchanged pleasantries and when they heard that we’d be in Regina the following week they urged us to come by city hall and they’d give us some “I love Regina” stuff. Well, we didn’t have time to drop by the office but when we got to the venue there was a bag of goodies waiting for us. A T shirt, a ball cap and a toque all black and proudly proclaiming that the wearer loves the Queen city. And we do. Be nice to play in a real theatre sometime.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Saskatoon 

Saskatoon 11:30 am

Tim Batting average Mike .333, Trevor .333; Chris .000

Two shows since last wrote, Winnipeg and Saskatoon. Both went very well and were full houses. As a special treat we had an opening act Ben Sures who is coming with us to Edmonton. We knew things would be okay when we met backstage in Winnipeg and he informed us that he’d brought along a game of travel Scrabble. Rock and Roll.

We’re not a very good rock and roll band in living the rock and roll lifestyle. We drive in a rented minivan or sometimes a mid size car. Not having a drum kit or a Sousaphone makes our baggage a lot more manageable. Baggage is the main reason we don’t sell T shirts or other merchandise at our shows; we’re the ones who have to carry them and T shirts are heavy and bulky. Sure we miss out on a lot of sales but in the long run we’re happier people. MapleMusic.com has allowed us an outlet for this stuff so if you feel you NEED a worms shirt, it’s the place to go. Having said that, I don’t know if we have any stocked right now.

Are folks getting the idea that I’m fairly clueless as to what’s going on?

So yes, Rock and Roll. Our shows generally end around 10pm and we very rarely go out to trash bars or hotel rooms afterwards. Sleeping is nice. We don’t have a road manager so we’ll use Ben. Ben is about 5 foot 5 but I’m sure he can be very mean so we feel very safe. And he’s pretty good at Scrabble.

Unlike Winnipeg, in Saskatoon we have always played at the Broadway Theatre. It’s a big old theatre in a very cool neighbourhood. Like many big old theatres it has had ungoing battles with finances and upkeep, however it’s always survived. We joked during the show that we come back every year or so and are always told that they’re about bankrupt and the building’s about to be condemned. Our first shows there we had to get power from a neighbouring building. There are no dressing rooms so we’d be either in the bathroom or an office upstairs. And on the stage was a carpet that’s at least as old as the province of Saskatchewan and had more colours. I’m partially colour blind and if I dropped a guitar pick on the carpet it would take me several minutes to find it while Trevor would stand there and laugh. Ha ha.

However, some money has been found in the last couple years and a major overhaul has occurred. Last time the stage was all new and to our horror, the carpet was gone. This time, there were new seats, new paint on the walls, two perches for lights and equipment, the power seemed to be coming from the building and there are now dressing rooms! Under the stage even. We’re still convinced that we’re in the wrong city. Certainly the wrong theatre. The only missing renovation? There was only one bathroom. Ooops. Note to Broadway patrons: Go before the show!

Chatty crowd. Very interactive. They know the old songs and many of the jokes into the song intros and have no problem with yelling it before us. Makes for an odd show; especially for people who’ve never seen us before. The Mounted Animal Nature Trail song was mayhem with people just yelling random things like “Oink” or “Go Riders!”. Like I say, odd though I’m sure it’s a standard greeting around here. I would have thought it would be more common during football season but what do I know?

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Minnedosa, MB 3 pm

And it begins…

For once an absolutely hassle free day of flying. Both mine and Chris and Trevor’s flights were early, that’s right early, did you get that early. Before the scheduled arrival time. My ticket said 9:00 and we arrived at 8:50. Best of all, my luggage arrived too.

Only once have I had the experience of not having my guitar arrive at the airport on the day of the show. It was also in Winnipeg and I kept calling back to the airport when each flight from Toronto arrived to see if my guitar made it. Fortunately it did and all was well. That’s another reason why we like to arrive early. Giving ourselves a window is a good idea.

But the tour is already going to be huge. Why? Because it’s Roll up the Rim time at Tim’s!!! Generally, this comes a little later in the year (it’s often a sign of spring in Ontario) but I guess spring is coming early this year because the happy orange cups are out. Could the world be a better place? Trevor is already the big winner as he won a coffee on his first roll. He called it a single and is batting 1.000 for the year. Chris and I are 0-fer. We’ll keep track of the batting averages.


Winnipeg, MB 4 pm

The show last night went very well. There was a woman right in the middle about 5 rows from the front who had her fingers in her ears for most of the night. A little distracting. However, no matter how much she hated it, she stayed for the entire show.

Minnedosa is a fairly small town just north of Brandon. Apparently some people came from Boisevin for the show. Not really sure how far it is but it sounds impressive. There’s a siren located somewhere in town that goes off 3 times a day; 8 am, 12 noon, and 6 pm. Mealtimes are very strictly controlled. Or perhaps it’s a grand Pavlovian experiment being conducted.

We’re in Winnipeg now hanging out with Trevor’s parents (Doug and Carol) and brother Russell. It’s a somewhat sad day as this will be our last time here as the Strong’s are retiring and moving to Kingston. We’re not sure if the new owners of the house will let us stay. Anyone looking for real estate in Winnipeg?

Trevor’s folks are always excited to see us and often host a party before or afer the show. Sometimes both. In years past Carol would keep Trevor well informed of ticket sales leading up to the show. This time she’s been less worried. There will be a dessert party after the show. I’ll review the desserts as well. They are generally very decadent and extremely sweet. Diabetics would not get along with the Strongs.

I won a coffee today.
Batting averages: Mike .500; Trevor .500; Chris .000. As a team we’re .333

Winnipeg has been a strange town for us over the years. We began playing at the Fringe Festival on the outdoor stage in Market Square. Market Square is where many of Winnipeg’s homeless spend their evenings in the summer months and they are not as fascinated by musical comedy acts or jugglers as some of the other patrons of the Fringe. Once a drunk man named Terry enjoyed our act so much he joined us on stage and began playing harmonica. After he gave us a Brett Hull hockey card. Thanks Terry. Who needs a Juno?

We tried to do our own shows in town but had little success until we got to perform at the Folk Festival. Still one of our fondest memories as we played 9 songs over the course of 4 days and sold a couple hundred tapes and CDs, mostly because of a 2 song spot on the Main Stage (Big Fat Road Manager and Carrot Juice is Murder for archivists) using only 2 mikes. I crouched a lot. We were invited back the following year and got to do an entire set on the main Stage.

Following that we played at the West End Cultural Centre (where we’re playing again tonight). It’s an old building which has quite a history. Best story I heard was that the ceiling collapsed once during a Skydigger’s concert. They brought down the house. Since then, the venue has always been teetering on bankruptcy but stiull survives. It’s still the best place to see folk music in town as it holds about 300.

We’ve also played at the Prairie Theatre Exchange which is a professional theatre company with 2 stages in a mall in the middle of town (Portage and Main 40 below…), at a Grey Cup party in a convention center, in the Food Court at the University of Winnipeg, the Gas Station Theatre, and at the Franco Manitoban Cultural Centre (during the Winnipeg Comedy Festival). We want to play a bigger venue but can’t find a promoter. Anybody know one?

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