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For the fourth time, the Big Sky Gliders played a set at Flower Fest, a micro-festival held on an acreage west of Edmonton. This is not a mammoth undertaking – Flower Fest is more about the friends of Little Flower (an open stage in Edmonton) getting together and playing music.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate this year – again. For the second time in our four appearances, we found ourselves playing inside the cabin that is on the site.

Playing inside at Flower Fest 2012

However, it was a good set. Don presented us with a new song on the Wednesday before the festival. We were able to take it all in stride and did a pretty good job of getting the song down with only two rehearsals. We seem to be much more together on stage and receptive to the little nuances that, in the past, would have thrown us. It was a satisfying performance and we received a number of compliments.

In the cabin for Flower Fest

The set list was:

  • Black Room (Jim)
  • What I Miss/Yer Smile Blues (Don)
  • Road to Nowhere (Jim)
  • Johnson Brown (Jim)
  • Back to You (Jim)
  • It’s a Lovely Day (Youngbloods tune)

I don’t think we did this on purpose, but we didn’t play any songs from our album. I guess more material for the next one.

The Big Sky Gliders
Brian, Jim and Don

And thanks to Wanda for the photos … Thank You Wanda -> good idea for a song 🙂

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Heart of the City Festival 2012

For the fourth year in a row, the Big Sky Gliders played the Heart of the City Festival in downtown Edmonton. And as usual, it was somewhat of an adventure.

Don

Last year, the organizers introduced us earlier than our scheduled start time and before we were ready to go. Then when we were finished, they asked us to play more … that lesson was always have more material than scheduled.

The festival alternates acts on two stages and this year we had only 15 minutes to set up. We were travelling a little lighter than normal with Don having his keyboard, guitar and mandolin, Jim with guitar and banjo and me with the bass (I would share Don’s mandolin). The trouble with the two stage setup is there is really no time to do a sound check. You make sure the mikes are working and you can hear your individual instruments but we don’t hear ourselves together until the first song starts.

Jim and I singing ‘Back to You”

The other issue is you really have no idea how the music sounds to the audience since what you hear is coming through the monitors. And what was coming through the monitors wasn’t pretty. We made it through our first four songs (My Dream Automobile, Melt Sugar, Johnson Brown and Smoke Down the Road) when the stage manager came up and told us we had one song left. We had been told we had a half-hour but apparently there was a misunderstanding and we were now down to 20 minutes. So with some juggling – forget two songs – we skipped to our last number. It is fun to play the festival – I just wish that for once we could have an uneventful set.

The ‘Fan’

More pictures from the Festival are up on my Flickr feed – taken by my daughter Kathryn.

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Don is out on the west coast at his island retreat so Jim asked if I would like to play the Carrot coffeehouse on Saturday night. I really like the Carrot. It is on the edge of the inner city in a neighbourhood that is seeing a rebirth of sorts. The Carrot is very neighbourhood orientated. And it is always an interesting time to play there.

Jim arrived first and signed us up. I got there at around 7:30 and Jim and his friend Ernie were first up. Other acts followed and I started to wonder when we were going on. Finally, around 8:30, the final performer was thanking everyone when we indicated that Jim and I hadn’t been up yet. A bit of a mistake, but no worries. Jim and I started our first song – a Youngbloods tune called, ‘It’s a Lovely Day’. It was the first time I had ever played it on the mandolin and all went fine until my pick decided it was happier on the floor. Again no worries – best thing to do is laugh it off and keep going. We followed with a couple of our own songs – Randy Rolled a Tractor and Back to You. And the comedy continued as I caught one of the buttons on my shirt sleeve on the strings. A bit of an interruption – laugh and carry on. It’s a great environment to screw up and continue on – everyone is just having fun. Jim’s wife Wanda joined us on Back to You.

Wanda joins Jim and I

The rule is 3 songs or 15 minutes. We finished our songs and there was no one left to follow us. So we kept playing. Jim’s friend Ernie joined us for a couple and we ended up playing for about 40 minutes. Finally we asked a couple who had earlier got up and played on wooden flutes to do another set and we could sit down. Tonight’s lessons: always have more material ready than you need and watch the buttons on my shirt sleeves!

Ernie, Jim and I at the Carrot

Next up for the Big Sky Gliders – finish the album and then the Heart of the City Festival on the first weekend in June. It is therapeutic to get out and play again. And thanks to all the fine folks at the Carrot – always fun.

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We are continuing to get closer to our goal of having three songs recorded before the holidays.

Jim and Don watching Rick do his magic

For the third song, we added the bass and banjo parts since Don had already put down the guitar and vocals. And, we had a special guest. Our buddy Kyle came in and added fiddle parts to two of the three songs. Kyle is a very accomplished performer and really added something special to the tunes.

Kyle in the booth

For me, the bass part wasn’t that tricky. My issue is I don’t play in the booth since we run a direct line from the bass right into the board. The other instrumental parts are recorded using a microphone so they need to be done in insolation. This means I sit with four guys around me watching while I play my part … no pressure. At least in the booth, you don’t have prying eyes watching your mistakes. And we make mistakes – but then Rick is there to fix the mess we make. A few clicks of the mouse and what was broken is right again. It is just amazing to watch Rick move your bass note so it lines up with the exact start of the beat because you were a couple of milliseconds early or late. Magic.

A lot of studio time involves waiting ...

So, soon to be in stores by the holidays … well, not really, but all that is left is to redo one guitar track and then mix and we should have our first recordings finished. In the new year, we will go back in and record enough for a CD. Stay tuned.

Anxious parents awaiting the results

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Magpies on the Court

Our first gig in a playground didn’t go that well. So when Yvon, our drummer, asked if we would consider playing at his community league function, we were lukewarm at best. We haven’t played with Yvon with quite a while so we thought it would be a chance to get back together. Playing with a drummer, instead as our normal trio, is different and can be enjoyable. And Yvon has a really good voice and it is fun to do harmonies together.

On arrival, we confirmed we were playing on a basketball court. But the day was nice, it was not too hot and there were people there who actually appeared as though they wanted to hear us play. The community league had paid for a sound system, which included monitors and a mixer. Yvon’s son Ryan was helping as sound guy. So off we went …

On the Court

And you know, it wasn’t too bad after all. We played a number of our originals as well as some cover songs. It was nice to be able to hear ourselves and I, for one, thought we did pretty well.

Yvon

Jim

Don - A job well done

I think we have more become confident in our abilities and the way we play together. This makes for a more enjoyable experience for all. I know that personally, three years ago I would have been a wreck doing something like this … but now it is familiar territory and a good time being up there. It may not be the big time but I can’t think of much else I would rather be doing.

The crowd goes wild!

P.S. Thanks to Wanda for the pics and Happy Birthday, Jim, Yvon and Natasha!

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Don, Jim and I headed to the Carrot coffee house on Saturday night for the open stage. Our friend Steve, who plays with us on occasion, joined us. I went, not expecting to get my own spot to play, but rather thinking that I would back up either Jim or Don.

The Carrot is quite small with a stage that holds three people in a pinch. For a cold Saturday night there were quite a few people there. I was a little late in arriving and the first act I saw was an aboriginal girl playing a wooden flute. It was haunting music. It was one of the few times I have been there and experienced complete silence while someone played. She was joined for her last two numbers by an aboriginal fellow named ‘Herb’. He had a brightly decorated sack that was full of different sizes of wooden flutes that he had made. Their duet was magic.

So Don asked Herb to come up and play on Don’s first song. Don has a way of getting complete strangers up on stage to play with him. It probably didn’t work as well as either would have liked (apparently Herb’s flute is in F-sharp) but there is promise. And even if it wasn’t perfect, people appreciated the effort.

I then went up to accompany Don on his other two songs. I sang “Sunday Morning Alibi” – a song Don wrote about sitting with a cat on the front step and contemplating life. And then we premiered “Ernest and Lucy”. This is a Don original about Ernest Hemingway and Lucy Maud Montgomery (Apparently the first line “Ernest Hemingway and Lucy Maud Montgomery danced on a Saturday night” came to him in a dream). Don played piano and I sang the lyrics (which have more syllables per line than anything else Don has ever written). It was first time I had ever sang without playing an instrument and it was different – it allowed me to concentrate on my voice and the lyrics. It is a great song and has a ragtime feel that is nothing like anything else we do. You know you are doing something right when people start to clap along.

It was a good night for the Carrot in that not everyone was able to get on stage because we ran out of time. Jim surrendered his spot to one of the regulars, Rene, who offered his Neil Diamond tunes on the 12-string. Poor Steve came all the way from the south-west of the city and didn’t get a shot but there is always another Saturday night.

The Carrot shuts down at 10 so Don, Jim and I decided to grab a coffee. There was a cafe across the street so we headed over there. Turns out it was a Somali restaurant. There was no one in the place and a television in the corner that was tuned to “Cops”. We sat down and noticed the menu was placed on a glass sheet on the table. The waiter then brought us menus that were exactly the same as those under the glass on the table. Everything on the menu was exactly $10, except a beef or chicken sandwich that was $6.

I was a little hungry so I thought I would order something. The first item on the menu was goat but I elected to go with a chicken stew. This turned out to be a serious meal with soup and a banana as an appetizer. Don inherited my banana but the soup was excellent. The main course was more like a stir fry with very interesting seasoning that didn’t overpower your taste buds and was accompanied by a huge dish of long grain rice with vegetables and raisins. My sister will be disappointed that I don’t carry around an iPhone to document my meals. It was a little more than a “coffee” but really good fun and good company. All in all, another unique experience at the Carrot.

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