What a long time since my last blog, dear me. Where on earth does the time go? It’s nearly October!!!! Anyway…I’ve been to Canada. But quite a bit happened before that as well so let’s head back to August. First up, the wonderful Broadstairs folk week which has been a staple of my calendar for much of my career – a truly wonderful festival run brilliantly by the now retiring Kim. I’ve always loved this one and UFQ’s set was as much fun as we expected. Fantastic! Next up was another cracking festival Folkeast which showcased my duo with John Dowling and I also made an appearance in the Young ‘uns hilarious live podcast and there was even the unlikely event of Will Pound and I playing something together for the first time in five years.
Then two more belting festivals to see out August – first guesting on banjo with Chris Quinn at Shrewsbury Folk Festival and then a set with UFQ on the raucous Chai Wallah stage at the flamboyant Shambala. Then just before Canada there was time to squeeze in two more festivals – Didmarton Bluegrass with John and then solo at Fleetwood Folk and Blues. Didmarton was a real belter in fact it was possibly mine and John’s favourite so far as a duo and then Fleetwood was just a lovely little festival too.
So then it was off to Canada…I’ve been to the east coast three times before and loved it so I thought it was about time I headed to the west coast and tried my luck there. Happily I was joined my old chum from school who’d always fancied going to Canada so it was something of a holiday too. I won’t use the word ‘lad’s holiday’ because that paints an image of us as trademark terrible British tourists…but we didn’t do that. Just to clarify. Wow that was unneccessary. Anyway off we went and we decided to have a few tourist days first so we spent those days working our way towards Fernie, a cracking little town in the mountains with stunning views that were sadly rather masked by the smoke from the wildfires experienced by British Columbia around the time of our arrival. Nevertheless we still got to experience the other main magical element of British Columbia – the people. Everywhere we went our accents drew a wonderful welcome from the people and they couldn’t do enough to help us. Harrison Hot Springs, Osoyoos and Creston were absolutely wonderful and then came the gigs.
Fernie Arts Station – quite simply thank you. This was a wonderful night for me with an utterly brilliant audience and I hope it’s not too long before I’m back! I have to say the hotel was rather nice as well. I often joke about the absurdly inflated idea many people who know me in Stafford as ‘the musician who tours the world’ have of the glamour of my life in relation to what it actually is. But lounging around in a hot tub prior to my gig was more in keeping with what they imagine…Then came a bit of a long drive to Kelowna and just my luck it was an early gig too! But Marmalade Cat Cafe, you were also a delight and I had a lovely time both at the gig and afterwards with our hosts Bob and Davina – staying at peoples’ houses on tour can be a bit of a mixed bag but some of my best ever evenings have been spent this way and this was definitely one of those. Then onto Chilliwack to play the Tractorgrease which was sold out and a real belter of a gig with lots of funny patter flying around with the audience.
Then a new paragraph for the next bit – Vancouver Island. Happily the fires had cleared by this point so we could actually see the stunning views on offer as we disembarked from the ferry. First we popped into Sidney for a look around and rather took to this quaint little town. Then it was onto Victoria for the first of three gigs on the island which was at Victoria Folk Society. It was very similar to a British folk club in many ways and as with those the audience were captive and simply lovely. A cracking gig all in all and a couple of days later the legendary Jennifer and Pete hosted me for a lovely house concert in the city which was one of my favourite gigs ever and again some great craic afterwards with my hosts and a couple of the guests including very fine musician Oliver Swain. Nothing makes you sharpen your act at a gig more than the knowledge that a very fine clawhammer banjo player is sat to your left watching you play clawhammer banjo. Thanks Oliver! Finally for the island it was to Duncan to play the wonderfully weird Duncan Showroom – you can even watch the gig at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yege5sIJgLg&t=2122s and I thank Long John for booking me and for being…Long John. Quite a character.
It’s only a shame that my final gig in Canada was where it was! Vancouver is a wonderful city but somehow I ended up with a gig in the roughest street in…probably Canada. So passing trade for a ticketed gig for a banjo player was hardly likely but anyway it was lovely to play to those who were there and it didn’t in any way spoil a wonderful trip and it was successful for me too. Canada is wonderful! Happily the rough street was very near Chinatown so I was able to eat some seriously tasty food. It’s not a bad life.
Finally to bring you up to speed, upon my return it was back into UK gigging with two gigs in one day the day after arriving back! What do you mean I should have a day off? Anyway it was Worcester Music Festival and Folk On The Moor near Plymouth. Both were good craic and Folk On The Moor really is a belter of a gig. I loved it and afterwards I stayed at a lovely couple’s house who gave me wine and cheese. I don’t know what it is about late night cheese but I love it. I try to resist it normally but…I didn’t.
Gosh Dan you’re on form today. Anyway I’ll leave you with a story of how truly not exciting I actually am. One of my favourite hobbies, for some reason particularly when I’m abroad, is to use Starbucks wifi whilst at no point giving any money to Starbucks. See I don’t really like Starbucks. They’re just everywhere do you know what I mean? I’ve been in several cities where there’s a Starbucks straight opposite a Starbucks. And I suppose when I go abroad I don’t really want to see them. So there’s something immensely satisfying about sitting in a lovely independent cafe in Sidney eating a quite delicious eggs benedict whilst reading my emails or what’s app messages with loved ones using the wifi from Starbucks. I was particularly proud that I managed to achieve this three times in two days. Yes folks, I really am rock n roll.