Post-Blue Skies is a very hard time for people who go there. After experiencing a weekend of euphoria - friends, great music, sharing - the coming down can be hard. Children and adults alike find themselves welling-up or crying, because the realities of more than two-hundred days of the year creep back into their minds, or simply because good times for the time-being are over. I am as susceptible to this as the next person, if not more so. I have always taken the end of Blue Skies hard, and this year was no exception because I'm in the middle of a difficult tour. I spent the days between Blue Skies and the show in Kemptville contemplating quitting this tour. What I arrived at was a decision to abandon the bike, to make the rest of it more comfortable, perhaps just to make it do-able. After talking with my mother, though, I had that guilty feeling of not finishing what I started, of breaking a promise. So, I decided I would cycle to the house concert on Friday, and up to the secret show and Black Sheep gigs on Saturday and Sunday.
Let me write about Kemptville before those gigs, though. The Branch Restaurant used to be Amanda's Slip, which was a fantastic place to eat very fine food by a very fine chef, AJ. Things have changed, but only subtly. The decor is still intimate and warm, the food is still amazing, the desserts are still mouth-watering, the music is still going. There is a different set of friendly, hospitable faces. The main difference is that The Branch is committed to using local and organic products as much as possible. This, in many cases, equals delicious. I had some broiled tofu for dinner and granita for dessert while drinking Heritage Dark Ale - and all were extremely satisfying. But what about the show? Well, Derek played the best set I've heard him play since back in Waubaushene. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand the whole time, or so it seemed. I felt a little daunted to get up there and follow him, as I imagined the crowd was into his style and wanted more. None the less, I got up and did my thing, and did it better than I'd done in quite a while, and though some people left, I don't think it was because of my music so much as because of the hour. It was a great show, and I can't say good enough things about our hosts. From the chef to the waitresses to the Maitre D, these people have made something cozy, classy and delicious.
After a crazy day running around trying to get ready to tour by bicycle again, I set off for Rachel Hauraney's house. On the way, I stopped into MEC to get some new gloves to see if they would help pad my hand better. They seemed to be doing the trick at the start, but by the next day, things had changed [more on this later]. The concert at Rachel's ended up as more of an informal get-together. A total of five people - apart from Derek, myself, Rachel and her ?boyfriend? - showed up. These included my friend Jerry and his new girlfriend, two friends of Rachel, and Melwood Cutlery. Instead of playing official sets, we just passed the guitar around and played the odd song in between chatting and getting to know each other. In a way it was disappointing, but in another it was nice. Even Jerry joined in on the playing, and at that point I began to think - this is what music is for - sharing. When the place had cleared and things were winding down, I went to play piano. In the middle of it, Derek came and said "Let's end this." I was caught off guard, so it took me a little bit to get his meaning, but he meant "let's end the tour". Everything came to head. Neither Derek or I particularly want to be around each other anymore. There seems to be very little that is positive that we can get from each other. We have been much quiter in public than we have been behind the scenes. Backstage is a mess right now. We can't comfortably be in a room together. I am disappointed in both of us for not being able to find a way to work together, but I also realize that we shouldn't be obligated to get along. We were never friends, and right now we seem to be the embodiment of each other's pet-peeves.
So, Derek's idea is to play the shows until Quebec City and then ride straight to Halifax from there, so he can say he crossed Canada by bicycle. My idea is to play the rest of the shows, so I can say I finished the music part of the tour. So it looks like we'll be splitting into a music/cycle tour - me on the music, him on the cycling. It is most likely for the best this way. We'll both have something to be proud of, and hopefully not too long from after its over we'll be able to look back on it all and laugh some. Wish us well!
Now, on Saturday I got up early and took the long, winding bike bath through the experimental farm and along the Rideau canal to the Parliament Buildings to meet - that's right - no one to cycle to the secret show, which took place at Le Depanneur Sylvestre in Hull. I was disappointed, but not suprised. On this trip, we have met with much disinterest and apathy. People have come out to the shows and said, "You guys are amazing. I would never do that." I have kept thinking, "Well, thank you for coming out to the show and supporting us, but you're not really supporting our cause, are you, since you seem to be missing the point." While the media has shown that they are really only interested in us because of the cycling part of the tour, many audiences across Canada have shown that they are only interested in the music. Often times, it has felt like encouraging people to cycle has been a process of preaching to the converted - people who are already avid cyclists. We seem to be a deeply car-dependant nation. And I could rant for a while about this, but all I can do is re-state "Do as much as you can" and "Catch yourself making excuses". With excuses at my side, I could've pulled out of this tour way back in British Columbia, but I didn't, because they weren't legitimate excuses. "I don't like cycling that much" is not a legitimate excuse for polluting the environment that sustains us. So there, that's it, rant over. I was disappointed that no one joined me on the ride to the Depanneur. They missed a fun little show at Hull's coolest venue. Le Depanneur Sylvestre is a wonderful community co-op with delicious food, coffee, funky clothing and gifts. It is a place that should be supported for the contributions it makes to its community. That's that.
After the show at the Depanneur ended, I took off toward my family's cottage in the Gatineau hills up the green cycling paths that are plenty in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. I was very thankful for them, for they made for much more pleasant riding than the highway. However - I got lost several times because the paths are either poorly or not labeled. I think I cycled an extra dozen kilometres or so because of wrong turns I took. The one I was most bitter about was on the Lac Lemay path where there was a map with a "You are here" arrow pointer on it, and it told me I was somewhere different than I was. I turned right because, according to the map, that would get me on the Gatineau pathway heading north. So, I cycle along for about 4km when the river appears on my left. Well, I swore a bit, realizing I'd just gone 4km south out of my way thanks to a sign that was wrong. I cycled back up to Lac Lemay, and found the actual spot that the sign said I was at (about 200m ahead of the sign) where I was actually supposed to turn right, and finally got myself heading north again. Because of all the wrong-turns, the ride took me a lot longer than planned, and I ran out of water in Chelsea (Tanaga). This made the last stretch through the last few satellite hamlets of Chelsea quite difficult, especially because my hand was numb and pain was shooting up to my elbow again, and I was tired from my first day of serious cycling in a while, etc etc etc. Bitch bitch, wine wine. I made it - that's all that matters. I tore off my shirt, shoes, gloves and helmet when I got to the cottage and immediately dunked myself in the river - oh sweet refreshment! I spent the night drinking tequila with friends Ann, Lara, Allison and my parents, laughing hard and quoting movies familiar to us. It was a good way to spend the night.
The Black Sheep show, though not horribly attended, was also a bit of a disappointment. For a homecoming, I felt very unsupported, and to be honest, it is shows like the three we did this weekend that make me seriously think about quitting music. Folks - if you want someone to keep playing and recording music, show your support for them - show up to the frikkin' shows when they come to your town for the ONE TIME they will be there in the whole year! I am sorry if I am bitter, but there's a chance I'll come off this tour and decide to say "screw it" because, as Timothy Hutton said in Beautiful Girls: "It's just NOT happening". Back at Blue Skies, Clayton Yates was talking about me to someone and said, "This guy had the worst draw of anyone who's played at our venue, but our owner absolutely loved him and said he's welcome back anytime he wants a gig." Welcome to the story of my music career. Maybe I just need a publicist, or a promotional agent?
Well, that's it. It's Monday now, and I am once again re-packing from bike set-up to backpack. I'll likely get a ride to Montreal on Thursday, which is good. We're on the homestretch!