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#17- Amy Heffernan in Canada AND Saucy Monky at The Kibitz Room, June 28th-July 1st 2009


Just finished a bit of a whirlwind 4-day trip through Northern Alberta playing with Amy then went straight from the airport to a midnight Saucy Monky show back here in L.A. at everyone's favorite dive bar The Kibitz Room.   I'm now gonna attempt to write one big ass blog entry to cover the entire trip.  First two-artist entry, hopefully it will work.   Might break up some of my usual formatting tricks this time, since I'm looking for more of an arc than a detailed bit on a single night.  I guess I should just dive in and see where it takes me, eh?  

Note: I just finished writing this entry, and it's a LOOOOONG one.  Sorry.  I think I'm gonna skip the links again and publish this bee-atch.  Next time I'll get all linked-up, I promise.  Consider reading this entry in chunks if you are short on time...

Day One- Departure and Rehearsal

Rehearsing at Mike's

So Doug (Amy's brother and guitarist) and myself hopped a plane headed North at 7:30 am last Sunday morning.  Being an international flight and all, we wanted to get there early so they ended up picking me up at (gulp) 4:45 in the freaking morning.  Not my usual hours to say the least.  After an uneventful stint at customs and a brief layover in Calgary, we finally arrived in Fort McMurray that afternoon.   It was raining and gloomy, I LOVED it!  Seriously, I have a thing for crappy weather, always lifts my spirits.  Partly as a nostalgia for my childhood in Oregon, partly for my disdain for sunshine as an L.A. pool guy constantly bombarded by UV rays.  It was perfect.  

First stop?  Barbeque and beers of course.  Went to Lee (sister of Doug and Amy) and her husband Trent's place for steaks to get the party rolling.  GREAT meal, although I did manage to bite down on my cracked tooth that's been bugging me and promptly slammed five tylenol to get rid of that "knife in the face" sensation.  Ouch.  Seriously.  OUCH.  My dentist couldn't find anything on the X-rays when I told him I was pretty sure I have a cracked tooth.  I hate dentists.  For real.  If you are reading this and you are a dentist, I hate you.  No offense.  

So after the pain subsided, and it did, we went downstairs and watched several of the kids play some Guitar Hero.  Actually it was the full band version of the video game, can't remember what it's called.  Garage Band?  Nope.  Guitar Band?  Nope.  Hmmm.  Anyway, interesting game.  I like that it keeps kids interested in a lot of the music I grew up with, guitar-based rock and roll.  I don't really like the fact that it fools them into thinking they are actually making music, which they aren't.  Hopefully it will prove to be a springboard for some talented youth into the world of actual music making.  We'll know in ten years or so the effect it had on this generation of young rockers.  

Okay, okay, speaking of music, after a quick stop by Howard and Diane's place (Amy and Doug's folks, where we'd be staying for the trip), we took our gear over to Amy's friend Mike's place to rehearse.  The photo above is us jamming away in his garage.  It was a cool little room, reminded me of the old days when I used to mostly rehearse in garages.  These days it's all mostly rented rehearsal rooms (and a couple guest houses to be fair).   Turned out to be a fine spot to practice, P.A. was workable and the amps he let us borrow were great.  I used a Fender head through a Markbass cab, 1x15.  Got a nice punchy sound for our low rehearsal levels.  Also brought a couple pedals to help on that front, my Sansamp and my Boss Bass EQ, plus the Boss tuner of course.  

Speaking of level, we jammed that night with local drummer dude Jay.  He had an electronic kit set up at Mike's so that helped on the volume front.  Always a little weird to hear the sticks clicking away on those rubber pads with the Roland Synth drum sounds coming from the P.A. speakers in the corner.  So Jay was a nice guy and had done some prepping, but unfortunately, he didn't have all the stops and endings down very well.  I'm sure with some extra rehearsal time it would have worked out fine, but we were doing 12 songs and at the end of this first rehearsal together we weren't very tight.  It was a great chance for me and Doug and Amy to run through the tunes, but it just wasn't together enough for the show.  PLUS, with the three of us living together at the folks place, we'd be able to run through the set over and over again as a trio and really get it happening.  It was gonna be easier and better to do without a drummer.  Poor guy, I liked him, he was cool, but we needed him to show up with the material in his back pocket and it just didn't work out.  

Here's another weird thing about being so far North; THE SUN DOESN'T BOTHER GOING DOWN MUCH.   it's crazy.  We wrapped up rehearsal around 11:30 pm and it was still kinda light out.  Crazy.  We ended up taking a cab to a local bar and meeting some of Amy's friends for a nightcap, then calling it a night around 2am or so.   

Day Two - Open Mike Night

Sorry, our photographer couldn't get the flash working on my camera, but you can trust me, this is Doug, Amy and myself rocking open mike night at The Whisky.  Use your imagination :)

So we wake up to to Diane cooking up a fantastic ham and egg breakfast on the patio, good conversation, and hot coffee.  I tolerated the sunshine poking through the lattice in long diamond-shaped fingers, mostly cause it meant our upcoming outdoor gig would be safe from the potential rain.  

Early afternoon found Doug and I taking a tour of the Oil Sand Museum on the other side of town.  Diane took us to get a sense of what really goes on in this happy little oil town.  It's a pretty fascinating process (or PROH-cess as Canadians say).  Their is all this oil in these sand pits, a totally natural phenomenon.  About a century of experimenting has uncovered a way of removing the oil from the sand in huge quantities and making it a safe and profitable venture.  Very profitable.  This is one rich little Northern town.  Anyway, the museum was cool, bits of history, bits of science.  

After the museum we met Amy at the local golf course lodge for a couple enormous plates of friend finger foods.  It was decadent to say the least.  Washed it down with more Canadian beer.  At this point I'd realized that the locals all drink American beers.  It was weird.  Bud light.  Coors light.  I remember Canadians always ridiculing our "watered down American brews".  Apparently those days have passed.  Oh yeah, apparently there has been a run in Fort Mac lately on BUD LIME!  Seriously!  They can't keep it on the shelves!  Wow!  Maybe the single worst beer in the world is so popular in this town that they have to put up signs that say "Sorry, we're all out of Bud Lime"!  I actually saw one of these signs in a liquor store.  Fantastic.   Anyway, I promised myself to drink only beer on this trip and only the Canadian flavors.  

Back to the folks place for some rehearsing, ran through the set, working out the kinks in the basement.  Adding some bits here, changing some bits there.  LOTS of singing to work on, particular with the absence of drums, we decided to keep the harmonies dialed up to Eagles Alert Level Red to distract from the lack of a designated time keeper.   Tried to focus on a handful of songs to get ready for the open mike night we'd be playing that evening.  

Have I mentioned "Ketchup Chips" yet?  Oh yeah.  Ketchup Chips.  It's so obvious really.  Key ingredient in Potato chips?  That's right, it's potatoes.  What goes good with french fried potatoes?  That's right, ketchup.  Well, up in Canada someone figured out to combine the two.  And it totally works.  Doug and I ate bag after bag after bag of ketchup chips.  So good.  I can taste them right now.  Mmmmmm, ketchup chips...

Okay, so after eating our weight in that particular delicacy and drinking a few more (Canadian of course) beers, we headed down to "The Whisky", a local bar where the open mike night would be going down.   It was about 11pm, still kinda light out, and the place was essentially deserted.  Amy assured us that people would show up around midnight, and sure enough, they did.  

Several performers that night, including a band who's name I've forgotten, who graciously allowed me to use their bass amp.  It was a nice Ampeg rig, 4x10 cab and one of the rack mounted heads.  Sounded great.  We took our turn and played Just Dance, I Do, Being Awesome and Here With Me.  It went pretty well, although we quickly realized that playing sans drummer is a whole challenge unto itself.  You get spoiled sitting in a basement right next to each other where you can really hear everything and lock into the group pocket.  Tougher when the sounds are coming from farther away and you don't have that proximity to grab ahold of.  Anyway, despite all that, we did a good job on the short song list and the recently gathered small crowd seemed to dig it.  

Day Three - Concert By The River

I took this photo about an hour before our set.  Crowd was still gathering, ended up being pretty darn big.  You can see the river in the background and get a sense of the lovely Alberta countryside beyond that.  

Okay, July 1st has arrived, it's officially Canada Day and we've got a 12 song set on an outdoor stage to prepare for.  We put in some time working out the kinks in the afternoon.  Added a song, "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree" by K.T. Tunstall, with an intro that was "Beat It" by the recently departed King of Pop.  An interesting transition of Michael's "hoo, ooh...hoo, ooh" into K.T.'s "whoo hoo".  You can hear it if you know the tunes in your head, just try!  

Headed to the sight of the show around 7:30 pm or so, plenty of time to get acclimated.  The headlining act was a band called Trooper, who are apparently huge up North, although I'd never heard of them before.  We were supposed to have our own trailer backstage but it got commandeered by Trooper when the electricity in theirs went out.  This was a "dry" event, no beer gardens or nothing, so losing our trailer put a serious dent in our "Drink Canadian Beer and Eat Ketchup Chips" plan.  And seriously Canada Day?  A DRY EVENT?  Really?  Not "Utah Day", but "Canada Day", right?  We did notice an inordinate amount of coffee cups and Big Gulps in the crowd, you do the math.  

Remember Jay the Drummer?   Well he was playing in the band right before us (with Mike, who's garage we rehearsed in Day One).  There was a brief moment of awkwardness as he left the stage and we got up there, but it was all good.  Felt like he was perhaps a bit irked at being yanked from the gig last minute, but it was the right call.  He sounded great with Mike's band, sounded like he was more familiar with their list of covers than our tunes.  

Okay, so we hit the stage around 9:30 or so.  Crowd has gathered and is pretty big.  Stage is cool, lights are rad, gear is killer.  Super smokin' Ampeg rig, you can see it in the photo above.  New reissue head I've been Jonesing over with the classic 8x10 cab.  Unfortunately, because I know I love this amp, I opt to not hook up my Sansamp or EQ pedals, just the tuner.  Probably a bad call, but I'll get to that.  

The sound was a little more scattered than the open mike night, big ass stage, lots of real estate to cover, hearing Amy and Doug, vocally and guitarally, solely in my monitor.  Not a great mix, particularly of the guitars.  Twas a little tough to lock in, particularly at first.  Vocally, we actually were nailing it from the start, our three part harmonies were really going well, Amy's lead vocals were strong, that aspect of it was a hit.  Really were missing a drummer from where I stood, but we rose up and made it work.  Jay was probably out in the crowd with a big old "I told you so" look on his face :).  

From a bass perspective, the sound was a little fartier than I'd hoped.  I'm talking about that vintage, classic kinda farty that is often perfect for an occasion, just not this one (you'd have dug it C2!).  I needed to get a little more precise for all the syncopated sixteenths I was playing in some sections and generally just to be able to help lock our group time down a little better.  I KNOW my pedals would have helped.  Give the EQ a bit of a nose in the high mids, roll in some of the Sansamp tube sound and I probably could have played a little more accurately.  My bad.  Crap.  

Despite all that, it went really well.  The crowd was digging it, our vocals carried the day and the songs themselves went over pretty great.  I loved being up there with the Woodsy Northern Vibe all around us.  Trees and Rivers and Mosquitos oh my!  Very fun for sure.  Nice long set, we really got to dig in and play a lot of music for a change.  An hour always  seems so much longer than forty five minutes for some reason, that extra fifteen minutes is some kind of worm hole I think.  

We wrapped up the show, checked out Trooper for awhile (they were fun) then headed out for some post-gig bar hopping in the still-not-dark-yet evening.  Met a bunch of friends and family and had a great evening.  Got lots of compliments, apparently it sounded great out front and the show was a big hit.  Cool.  I really enjoyed the town, the people, the food, the bars, the whole scene in Fort Mac.  Always great to spend a few days in one place and start to get a feel for it.   Thanks to anyone from up there that made it such a killer stay, if any of y'all happen to be reading this, you know who you are.  

Day Four - Saucy Monky at The Kibitz Room

Back in L.A. to start our month long Wednesday residency at The Kibitz Room.

Okay, up on Wednesday morning, mission accomplished, bags packed, brunch at local spot with the family, quick tour of the new offices the Heffs are putting in at their airport hangar, then we catch a flight back to L.A.  I've got a show that night waiting for me with Saucy Monky at midnight.  Our flight is scheduled to land at 9:30 pm at L.A.X.  It's gonna be tight.  And I'm gonna be tired, been going pretty strong for the past few days.  

Cut to Calgary airport and Doug gets held up at customs.  Some problem with his green card (he's a Canadian married to an American and he has a green card that got stolen while they were in China picking up their lovely adopted daughter Annie).  So he's got a photocopy of his green card, but not the real deal.  Some asshole at Customs decides to take him to a back room and give him the third degree like he's an international assassin or something.  Hold him there for over an hour, then let him go just in time to barely make the flight home.  Dick.  Meanwhile, I don't know what happened, just that he never came out of customs.  His phone is off, no contact allowed.  Just when I'm convinced he ain't gonna make it, he strolls in and fills me in on what happened.  Phew.  I'd been texting his wife warning her that her hubby might not be on board when we get home.  

And to make matters worse, our flight was late.  I've got a gig waiting, and I do NOT need a late flight.  It's gonna be really tight but it's still doable.  We finally get in the air about an hour behind schedule.  I get some much needed sleep on route and we land at L.A.X. around 10-ish.  I get my bags, Kirsten picks me up, we swing by the house to get my stuff and I drive down to Hollywood.  Arrive at The Kibitz Room at 11:45 pm, load in, set up gear and it's Saucy Monky Time!

As fate would have it we're playing another trio set without a drummer.  Megan had a cool TV show gig that night and we were rocking it sans skins.  I had my Hartke and full pedalboard and after a few tunes of tone-fishing was able to dial in something pretty cool.  Had a little push and pull happening with the sound guy, who wanted more low end from my amp, and Cynthia, who was stuck in the bass-trap corner and wanted less.  All three of us had to do some tweaking on the fly to get it dialed up, but from where I stood it ended up sounding great.  Annmarie was playing her recently aquired (from Cynthia) Kay guitar, Cynthia had her Wurly set up along with her guitar, the sounds were good!  

Despite some minor tempo problems, always an issue without a drummer it seems, we were vibey, found a nice pocket, sang well, played well, I was feeling it.  I LOVED having my sound working better than it had that last night in Fort Mac, very freeing, I was the proverbial Pig in Shit.  I'd done some reviewing while I was gone and felt pretty good about the material, hit the changes, felt like my voice was in the zone too.  It was a good show for me.  Had some friends  in the crowd who were ABSOLUTE ROCK STARS for coming out for a midnight show on a Wednesday (Howdy Sean, Dan, Jen, Farlan, Brian, Gary, Erin and a few others, you guys rule!).  Got great reviews from the peeps in the crowd, we sold some CD's to strangers, the club seemed pleased, it was a hit.  

I'll probably have more to say about The Kibitz Room in the coming weeks, Saucy will be playing their every Wednesday this month at midnight.  It's actually a fun slot, despite the hour.  Crazy people, good whisky, and bitchin' pastrami sandwiches, a lethal combo for sure.  

Whew.  So that was unusual.  Four days.  Two bands.  Doubt I'll try to do something this long again soon, my hands are tired from typing.  This is a lot to proof read too, there will probably be some mistakes that slide by the defenses.  But it's done.  I'm back.  Things are back to normal again.  Oh, wait, we (Kirsten is coming with for this one, yay!) leave next week for another road trip, this time to Oregon for two shows with my old college band Grubb Street.   That reminds me, I've got thirty songs to work out this week.  I know how most of em go but no more slacking, time to start drilling it.

Thanks for reading, it's been fun, talk soon!



I just read the whole thing...
Jesus Christ.
And you HAVE heard of Trooper. The Boys In The Bright White Sports Car? Raise A Little Hell? Here For A Good Time Not For A Long Time?
If you haven't we have been fed some pretty serious misinformation by Heritage Canada who tout the 'Troop as an international success story.
If you want to really see Canada come back to Toronto. Alberta is very 'merican. TOO 'merican if you know what I mean.
Keep up the good work Steve.
Can you tel that it is a slow day at the ole' piano shoppe?


BTW Jeremy posted this byatch.