After taking the overnight flight back across Canada to Ontario (our itinerary was specially calculated to maximise our frequent flyer points), we had a couple of days off, so while the rest of us slept Lear hired a car and popped across the border with his shiny new US visa to visit his in-laws in Rochester – the very same lovely people who were unfairly cheated of their chance to star in our blog series from last year’s tour by a guilt ridden blogger who ran off to South Africa instead of writing the final blog… but that’s another story…
The next festival to play was Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ontario. Until now, the word “Guelph” has only ever featured in my life as an involuntary sound made by my stomach to signify that it has had enough beer and pizza for the evening, but now “Guelph” has taken on a whole new meaning as a very cool Canadian town boasting, among other things, beautiful Victorian era buildings which give it a distinctly European flavour.
Before the festival we had the luxury of conducting an interview with Jan from Folk Roots Radio without even having to set foot outside of our hotel room.
The actual festival was held out of town on a little island at Guelph Lake Conservation Area. The island was joined to land by a narrow land bridge for the punters to walk, while the artists enjoyed the luxury of being shuttled to and from the stage in a cute little motorised raft.
A leisurely way to get to a gig. Although, Lear looks like he might be afraid of drowning!
Approaching the backstage dock.
Click on this panorama for the full effect
Eileen and co. rocking out on “Where You Been” – our “most photographed song”.
As well as a fun set on the main stage, we also had the pleasure of doing a workshop with a great band called The Spring Standards, from New York, comprised of Heather, James and James. I was highly jealous of the fact that in their band, Jameses held a 66.67% majority, compared with Perch Creek’s pitifully low 20% James content. I can only dream of a time when Perch Creek might get a few more James’ on board so we can finally wield the upper hand and right the wrongs done to us! My psychologist says I have underdog issues…
“Imagine a Perch Creek with a couple more guys like this!
It was definitely ice cream weather.
I must admit that when you travel around going to festivals all over the world, you do get a little jaded, which is why we were pleasantly surprised to be completely and utterly gobsmacked by a Ukrainian band called DakhaBrakha, who, as far as we could tell, were operating on a whole new level – musically, sonically and theatrically, not to mention their radical outfits.
At the time I was far too gobsmacked to take a picture, which is why I’m now committing a minor copyright infringement by lifting this photo off someone else’s website.
All the festivals we had played in Canada so far had a real commitment to reducing waste, with Hillside claiming to be a zero waste event, which is pretty cool, even if dividing your lunch scraps into different types of compostible/recyclable/reusable waste can create a few additional moments of head scratching at the bins.
Theoretically, the only things going in the “Landfill” section would be things that thoughtless punters would have brought onto the island themselves.
I definitely won’t be volunteering on the dishes team!
With Hillside Festival all done and dusted, as well as a Monday night gig at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, it was time to say goodbye to all those friendly Canadians (they really are friendly!), hire a couple of cars and drive down to Detroit, USA. At the border, those of us with “smart brains” (that’s Eileen, Christi and Lear talk for, you guessed it, Eileen, Christi and Lear) opened up their passports to the page with the visa and sailed through customs, while those of us with supposedly “dumb brains” (Camilla and myself), merely handed our closed passports to the customs guy, verbally informing him that we had visas. The customs officer responded by shouting a few questions at us, then flicking through a few passport pages, before deciding that we must be lying about the visas because he didn’t happen to flick to the right page of our passports. We were then made to pull over, surrounded by guards and told to empty our pockets, hand over the car keys and our phones and go into a little office where we would be finger printed, interviewed and charged $200 to apply for a visa waiver form which we didn’t need. When eventually they acknowledged the fact that we did have visas after all, we were free to go (after paying an additional $6 processing fee each). On our way out of the office one of the guards shouted “You need to repack!”, with the whites of eyes showing all around his pupils and little sweat beads on his face. I asked him what he meant by that, and he shouted it again in the exact same way. That’s when I looked over and saw that they had searched our car and dumped our large collection of instruments and luggage on the road, leaving us to repack everything ourselves. US customs officers are in their own bizarre world where bureaucratic drudgery meets theatrical drama.
Our first official gig in the states was in a pleasant, leafy town called Ann Arbor, about half an hour out of Detroit. The gig was well attended and full of dead quiet, but highly enthusiastic folk music fans. The next day we were taken to lunch at a famous deli called Zingerman’s – supposedly where Barack Obama eats when he visits Ann Arbor. It was good, but quite strange in a very American way – a bit like a sandwich theme park. Apparently they have revolutionised the typical business model in a variety of ways, which I won’t go into, but I will say that when you order your sandwiches, they ask whether you would like a “new pickle” or an “old pickle”, whatever that means – I had to fight back the urge to say, “I don’t want a pickle, I just wanna ride on my mo……..torsickle”.
That night we went in to check out Detroit with the objective of finding some hipster food and getting a load of some genuine Detroit dinge, both of which we found without having to search very far at all.
Hipster food and drink? Check.
Dinge? Check. When we stumbled upon a crime scene near this steam vent, we knew it was time to pose! Work it, Lear!
The next stop was Nashville, Tennessee and I for one was keen to see if it lived up to it’s reputation in all those song lyrics. Nashville is a smallish city – a bit smaller than Perth, but it is packed full of musicians and music industry people. Our first port of call was to make a tourist stop at Third Man Records, Jack White’s quirky record store. It didn’t have many records, and much less CDs, but it did have heaps of cool novelties including a refurbished 1947 “Voice-o-Graph” machine that will record your voice and give it back to you in the form of a 6 inch phonograph disc. We bought our tokens and decided to do a take of Find The Cost Of Freedom – our favourite Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young cover. I grabbed the complimentary Martin guitar and we all tried to squeeze in to the booth that was literally the size of a phone booth. Us Perchies are accustomed to being in close proximity to each other, but this was definitely the most squished we’ve ever been! We popped in our tokens, sung our hearts out then watched on through the glass pane as the Voice-o-Graph cut our little recording into a real piece of vinyl right before our eyes! As our shiny new record spat out of the little chute we consoled ourselves that while we may never be on Jack White’s record label, at least we feature on a genuine Third Man Records 6 inch.
Don’t believe me? Click on the link below to watch it in technicolour. (Technical note for the oldies: Once you click on the link, your computer will probably ask you whether you want to allow Quicktime to run – say “yes”. When the video is going you should click on the “full screen” icon on the bottom right corner of the video. When you’ve finished, you’ll want to click the “Back” icon on your browser to get back to this exciting and informative read)
Us posing outside yet another one of Jack White’s many quirky machines. They say that “awkward chic” is in, but I’m still waiting for “downright uncomfortable” to become trendy.
Nashville is full of hot cowgirls, and here is a great piece of photographic evidence!
Our final gig of the tour was at City Winery, Nashville. It was fun, despite being very quiet, even for a band of out of towners, which was partly due to the fact (and I will happily point the blame here) that Nashville’s brand new Ascend Amphitheatre was having it’s grand opening that night with a sold out show by country music’s latest bad boy, Eric Church, whom we’d never heard of apart from driving past a fleet of semi trailers with his name all over them on our way to our humble sound check.
How could we compete with this guy?
After the gig we met up with our friend Alys, who recently moved to from Queensland to Nashville to be a full time songwriter. She told as all about it before taking us downtown to the global epicentre of country cheese – Nashville’s Broadway strip. It was like Tamworth on steroids! The whole strip was jam packed with bars, drunkenness, covers bands, tourists, buskers, neon, and a whole lot of Elvis statues. We only lasted about 20 minutes before catching an “Uber” back to our beds. The driver was really friendly and a cool guy, but the best part of it was, we totally blew his mind by telling him that it was currently winter in Australia – “What?! Winter?! IN JULY?!!”. We seek to educate as well as entertain, people.
That was Thursday night and the last time we slept in a bed until touching down in Australia on Sunday, arriving home to headlines about thousands of racist footy yobs booing an Aboriginal sportsman – what could be more Australian?
Who needs Nashville when you can come home to baby Nash Hodgkins? Especially when he’s dressed up as an additional member of DakhaBrakha!