Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Road Trip
9 Days, 4,500 km, 8 States
Beech Mtn NC to Montauk LI

A wonderfully uneventful Day 1 of travel. The border was kind, traffic was sane and we were only a little non-plussed by the signs on 'no other way but this way' US Route 19 in West Virginia that were warning us the highway was closed at the bridge. It was our good fortune we didn't need to pass it today and it would be open tomorrow. This became a lesson in how you may come across the unexpected no matter how well you plan.

What was happening here was a yearly event called  Bridge Day

Base jumping heaven. Tens of thousands of people attend this event each year. Had we been planning on driving only a half-hour longer on Day 1 we would have encountered a disruptive obstacle. As fate would have it, that was a few days away.

Day 2 finds us climbing 5,506' to the peak of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. I've done my share of treacherous roads from the Black Forest  in Germany, the climb to Lake Tahoe in California , an unnamed natures death-trap in British Columbia and parts of the Italian Alps...this one  was long, fast and steep, makes your heart race a little. As long as your car holds the road, that's a good thing.

Three-quarters the way up the hill we run into a traffic jam at the only stop light we've seen for miles. The town of Banner Elk is celebrating the Wooly Worm this weekend. Seems to be a popular event. Lesson #2 in coming across the unexpected.

In due time we pull up to our quaint abode, Dorothy's House, in the Land of Oz.

It's got hokey artifacts all around the house.

Memorabilia of the Oz variety.

It's got three bedrooms including this spacious uploft with a king bed.

The basement is dark, with a long ramp leading past eerie wall coverings

To the living quarters of Auntie Em during the cyclone.

Outside the back entrance is the Yellow Brick Road.

Past the remnants of the Wicked Witch.

Leading us through Munchkin Land.

Through the Enchanted Forest.

Past the witches castle.

And on to the gates to OZ.

Where the Big Man runs the machine.

And finally, the balloon ride home, for Oz.

You would think all that and resting atop a mountain with no phone connection made for a rather restful weekend ... but you try walking mountain roads one mile up. It's work. Nice scenery though. Lots of deer, though none stopped to pose...and those that were doing the road-side pose you don't wanna see.

Day 5 has us driving down Beech Mountain in a with the howling wind and blowing sleet. Very slowly down the mountain we go, pulling over at every bulge in the road to allow the more daring to pass us by. I did not have "pull the car out of the ditch" on my itinerary. Once we are out of the mountains the drive to Huntington WV is in a steady downpour. Got a conference call at work in during the trip though.

On September 3,1972 I saw my first rock concert. Alice Cooper at Toronto's Varsity Stadium. It was an outdoor show and the skies favoured us with a lightning backdrop to Alice's eerie shenanigans onstage. Quite the experience. You would have won the bet, if we'd placed one, that I would be seeing him in the US 41 years later. But here we are.

        The Underture
        Hello Hooray
        House of Fire
        No More Mr. Nice Guy
        Under My Wheels
        I'll Bite Your Face Off
        Billion Dollar Babies
        Department of Youth
        Hey Stoopid
        Dirty Diamonds
        Welcome to My Nightmare
        Go to Hell
        He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)
        Feed My Frankenstein
        Ballad of Dwight Fry
        I Love the Dead
        Under the Bed
       "Raise the Dead" Introduction
       Break On Through (to the Other Side)
        (The Doors cover, Jim Morrison)
        (The Beatles cover, John Lennon)
       Foxy Lady
        (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover, Jimi Hendrix)
       My Generation
        (The Who cover, Keith Moon)
        I'm Eighteen
        School's Out
        (With "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" by Pink Floyd snippet)

I have no complaints about that set list. Click on the covers for an mp3. (Note: These versions are not from Huntington, just presented in case anyone is interested)

Day 6 finds us heading due east to visit our dylanpool friend, zepat in Harpers Ferry WV. Cece and I have enjoyed many a show with this guy, we even enticed him to cross the borderline into Canada for the only time in his life. That was back in '03. Time does fly. He did me the favour of picking up about 700 78 RPM's from a seller in Maryland. I'm stopping by today to select about a hundred of them to bring home and add to my already too large collection. Did find some prime stuff; Little Richard, Bill Haley and His Comets, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers...and more. 

 Little Richard She's Got It

But the real reason we came over here was to see Christopher play live at the Bluesgate Jam, held every Thursday night at Longshot Billiard's in Charles Town WV. Got in early enough for dinner, tunes on the juke box and to watch set up.

Day 7 is a big one. Longest drive since Day 1. We are waking up in West Virginia and will pass through 6 states on our way to the end of Long Island NY. On the road at 5:50 AM and we made great time through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. We arrive at the south side of Long Island well ahead of schedule. I have a 1PM deadline and should be there by Noon. Until we hit Unexpected Diversion #3...the SO Parkway is CLOSED. We are stopped a solid 2 hours with no movement. A quick phone call and we have rescheduled the pick up to 6pm. Check-in and head out to the end of Long Island to view the Montauk Lighthouse.

Long Island is ... well, long. Takes quite awhile to get out to the point. We head into Sag Harbor for a quick bite then I'm finally in the living room on Main St North taking possession of this:

Mission accomplished!

Robert Johnson Kind Hearted Woman's Blues 

Robert Johnson Terraplane Blues 

Day 8 finds us in another traffic jam, as the Geo Wash Bridge is under construction. A mere 40 minute delay here. Kids stuff. We roll into the Woodstock area from the south to find the commemorative sign on the road leading in to Tinker St.

We meet up with our friend and perennial Woodstock tour guide, JS, at The Bear Cafe. From there we switch into one car to do what we always do on these road trips; see dead people.

The Danko family plot is the final resting place of Eli Damien, Rick's 18 year old son from his first marriage who passed in 1989. Rick was interred in 1999 and his second wife, Elizabeth just this year.

Levon's marker is currently a non-descript plaque

Set against a musical wall backdrop.

One final destination, just checking.

It's still Big. It's still Pink. Ground Zero.

Day 9 and we head straight for the Canadian border crossing at Hill Island into Kingston and on home.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

We Are Off to See The Wizard
and so much more
Fall 2013 Road Trip

It's always been our way to plan more than we can comfortably accomplish...we have reasons for that and those reasons don't seem to be abating.

So we are back on the road to ... it doesn't really matter where as long as you are on it.

What started as a quick-hit extended-weekend getaway in the Blue Ridge Mountains has morphed into a nine-day-meet-old-friends marathon. I like it like that.
Date of Departure : Saturday October 19.
Date of Return : Sunday October 27.

Day one will be a breeze, since the American Government is back at work. Nothing but black-top until we rest in Summersville WV on Rural Route 19. That should be 8-10 road hours later.

A mere four hours on the road today and we are rewarded with 3 restful days at the top of Beech Mountain in North Carolina  at the Land of Oz

We will stay in Dorothy's House close to the 75th Anniversary of the release of the movie.
And take the yellow brick road to where it leads.
And come home with much better pictures, didn't want to ruin the surprise here:)

Wednesday October 23. Five road hours today as we continue the Hallowe'en theme and head to Huntington WV for Alice Cooper's Tour of Terror on Wednesday night.

Thursday October 24. Six hours on the road today get us to Harper's Ferry WV to visit our friend who did me the favour of picking up 9 milk crates of 78 RPM discs I bought off some guy in Maryland.

A couple hours of picking will be followed by a short jaunt to Charles Town WV where Christopher will be playing at the Longshot Billiards Room Bluesgate Jam..

Friday October 25. Seven more road hours on Friday will find us driving to the end of Long Island, Sag Harbor to be precise. This extension was added last Sunday when I won an auction on eBay. I don't want this record put in the mail if I could avoid it and I just happen to be in the area. If your area is the east coast.

Link to Robert Johnson auction 

Sometime around mid-day on Saturday we will be in Woodstock NY to visit the final resting place of Levon Helm and Rick Danko and to spend some time with good company. While we're there we might as well see Big Pink, visit the site of Dylan's 66 bike crash and get some sustenance at The Bear.

Sunday sees us with seven more road hours and we are home, with a quick stop in Western New York to see some friends.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

CR Avery Can't Get Any Better
w/ The Weber Brothers
Special Guest, DJ PrufRock
The Pearl in Hamilton

 CR Avery is a chameleon.

 He can come out into the night as a solo artist opening for the "voice of his generation in a confined geographic location that is the UK and a bit of Europe", Billy Bragg.

Next time you see him he's a solo headliner packing The Rivoli with a circus troupe of friends.

Give him a few months off and he's backed by a Gospel band.

Then onstage for a roof raising set at The Rivoli with a string band.

He's most explosive when backed by a rocking band like The Special Interest Group.

He has even come through town with a burlesque review.

And all those words don't even tell half the story. Those shows have taken place in sweaty bars, open fields, family festivals, underground hangouts and concert halls. The audience is always challenged and they never fail to rise to the occasion.

Tonight we find the Bard of East Van pushing the envelope again.

I'm not prone to hyperbole (that may be an understatement), but something is happening here and I don't know what it is.

Went to a rock concert and got historied. The history of hip-hop and protest. Saw the best minds of this generation trying to right the wrong that is the Right. Expect every show I go to will be the one where I shrug and say; "Seen that before," and leave every night knowing it will be the next one...or will it?

It's T minus10 minutes and the assembled are watching something they've yet to see at a CR Avery show. Standing onstage, fiddling with plugs and cords, is  hip-hop spoken word artist, DJ PrufRock, checking his two turntables and a microphone. Some in the audience are murmuring, doing their best Mr Jones. I have faith in the art of the show.

Tonight we have a seven-piece band. CR on harp and mic. PrufRock with the scratch. The Weber Brothers, Sam on lead and Ryan on bass, supplemented by Shai “Cookie” Peer on the keys, multi-instrumentalist Rico Browne and Marcus Browne on drums.

Show starts:

0:00 Track 01 Dylan Dub

The familiar voice of a young Bob Dylan begins to waft out of the PA system. The Times They Are A-Changing foreshadows what's about to come as this set will touch on significant sign-posts along our shared journey.


The band kicks in with a smoky, bluesy back beat...


Bob is back, PrufRock is scratching and the two bands meld into one funky riff.

1:44 Track 02 Street Poet Obscene

Theme from MGM productions.


Piano drops and CR is into a new hip-hop, beat-box piece Street Poet Obscene, a bombastic, biographical journey through airports and seedy bars and back seats of cabs. CR is out in the audience, working them into a hand-clapping, chanting chorus.

11:10 Track 03 Door By The River

Harp blast and in the background, Martin Luther King Jr speaking at the Washington Monument. I have been to the mountain. We are still in '63... still hoping. CR's promised land is found in his uplifting Door By the River.

19:06  Track 04 DJ PrufRock song

Mournful horn. Something new.  CR calls up PrufRock for short piece, a word-dance... Know the world is listening, say something famous...

21.24  Track 05 My Bad

Band picks up the rhythm for the hilarious My Bad, totally reworked into a funky rap with explosive punctuation at the chorus. The song is filled out with band solos and a break-dancing exhibition from the drummer. It closes with the the four-armed horn and bass solo...for some of this you just had to be there.

31:48 Track 06 Dungeon of Love

Had enough of hip-hop? DJ PrufRock checks in with some disco, Bonnie Tyler's I Need A Hero, complete with three white men vamping Ronettes style, rocking neon sunglasses. (See point above about having to be there.)


Machine-gun fast word bullets spew out leading us into a scratch-laden version of The Dungeon of Love.


The Isley Brothers are on the know you make me wanna shout! and the ensemble is dancing around waving their hands in their best Carla-from-Cheers imitation.

And this is where Dungeon of Love finishes.

42:09  Track 07 New Stanzas For Amazing Grace

Harp. The mournful New Stanzas for Amazing Grace by Ginsberg. Three part, a-capella harmony. Whew, needed that break.

44:43  Track 08 The Weber Brothers Jam

PrufRock scratches as the band picks up the beat for an extended jam that leads into a long improvisational piece that must be called, Madison 22 Review. This is the group of ladies that CR came through town with last time out. A risque show, fun times and I got to chauffeur the girls.

47:20 Track 09 Madison 22

Story telling time about the Pope and Elvis.

Madison 22 chorus.


Auto-biographical story about an ADD afflicted youth who grew up to write a book of poems called 38 Bar Blues that is on the curriculum at York University. The moral of the story is you don't have to be a martyr to peoples classification, you don't have to be Christ on a cross, you can be Johnny Cash giving the world the finger.

Madison 22 chorus and extended instrumental jam.


Harp lead-in to harp-duet.


Underdog story and Ronnie Hawkins lesson followed by great story about how a cat comes to own you.


Madison 22 chorus and a final inappropriate joke involving Willie Nelson.


Madison outro.

That was a 20 minute theater piece.

1:04:09 Track 10 Money Changes Everything

Theme from Hockey Night in Canada (the real one, not the current one) mashed with a quote from Ani DiFranco's Self-Evident. You don't come across that every night.


Band intro over a Lou Reed type bass riff. CR introduces a piece that was commissioned by the Sierra Club to help fight the Northern Gateway, wrapped inside Money Changes Everything..

The show has come full circle. Back to protest. The soul of Dylan, King Jr, Ginsberg...all morphing in this lengthy eco-lesson.

1:05:39  Pierre Eliot Trudeau is name-checked.
1:06:53  Rubin Hurricane Carter checks in
1:07:25  LL Cool J's mom.


Money Changes Everything chorus

1:09:27 More eco-lessons...the blue-collar and bar-stool pundits get climate change.


Money Changes Everything chorus

1:11:06  Billion year old carbon. Everything is broken on this slippery slope.


Money Changes Everything chorus

1:13:06  More complexities layered into the problem.

1:14:43  Fight the Power mashup, with Woody Guthries' This Land and Dead Prez hip-hop-hip-hop-hip, Dylan's Hurricane, Cohen's Democracy and Holiday's Strange Fruit.  DJ PrufRock struttin' his stuff.

1:15:59  Piano intro to cover of Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five's The Message. We are still moving ahead in time, still protesting the social injustice, illustrating the frustration of a lost generation, giving re-birth to this anthem in our First Nations. And giving warning.

"Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge..."

1:17:10  Every Canadian say...don't push me... CR delves into a sell-out rant.

1:17:57 We get a visit from The Clash, White Riot, with Stand-Your-ground lunacy rant.

1:19:15  PrufRock brings in his friend Beethoven, with Ode to Joy. CR's invocation to action.


Money Changes Everything outro with crowd.

1:23:16  Spoken word close.

1:24:10  Encore break. Track 11 Encore break with sweaty stage talk

Let's take a minute to recap while the band wipes down the sweat.

That was another 20 minute piece of rock n roll theater.

1:25:43 Track 12 Piano Ballad

CR chats to quite the crowd and introduce a ballad.


Solo piano...he goes all boozy, bluesy on us for a story about finding yourself in your music.

1:32:24 Track 13 Improvisation and Sgt Peppers Outro

PrufRock brings in The Staples Singers for a soulful interlude, I'll Take You There mashed with "damn I wish I wasn't such a wimp" from The Pharcydes Passin' Me By, provides the melody behind another spoken word piece. PrufRock checks in with an improvisational couple of verses, while CR moves back and takes over the turntables. Even with the repeated "wimp" refrain CR is unable to entice anyone to come up from the audience and take over the mic.


Show closes with The Weber Brothers taking us out singing Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

1:43:48  Dirty jokes, dirty politics and almost two hours of musical genius.

How insane was that?

Nights like this I am OK with James Brown's passing. It wouldn't be right to see him lose his crown.

The hardest working man in show business... C R Avery.

He can't get any better.

Or can he?