Freeman’s Little New Yorker and Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia!

FREEMAN’S LITTLE NEW YORKER – 8 pm JULY 21

I had one more show before I headed back to Toronto from Halifax.

Freeman’s Little New Yorker is a pizza and burger chain that has a number of locations in Halifax, and you won’t find it anywhere else.  For Torontonians, you could compare it to a Boston Pizza but with more of a pub vibe, and a really great commitment to live music.

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And they have a lot of live music at Freeman’s.  They have three locations in Halifax (since 1956!), two of which offer live music of some sort, during day and night.  It’s great to see so much emphasis on the music.

That said, it’s a little intimidating to walk into such a huge place with a big stage and do a solo four-hour show!

In Toronto, these kind of venues would be all cover songs, all the time.  But Freeman’s had specified a mix of covers and originals, so I had three full sets of originals and all sorts of new covers that I had learned specifically for this show and the Wolfville Farmers Market.  The last week before the tour I was still trying to remember the lyrics to “Still Rock And Roll To Me” by Billy Joel (damn, there’s a lot of lyrics in that song!!), “In My Life” by the Beatles and “Give A Little Bit” by Supertramp.  I decided to pull out my favourite piano-based songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s, so I had a good collection of Beatles, Supertramp, Elton John and Billy Joel mixed in.

When I came in to set up, I found another band just leaving the venue, complete with a standup acoustic bass, drums and full rhythm section.  They were the “Lucky Dog Blues Band”.  I also quickly realized that I was the replacement for “A.J. and the Last Shots”, another blues cover band that usually plays on Sunday nights.  I really didn’t know what kind of reception I was going to get for my music.  It’s pretty far away from the blues.

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When I started, the restaurant was about half empty, and quite noisy.  I got some scattered applause here and there, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in the music.  I finished my first set, thanked everyone, and headed over to the bar feeling a bit dejected.  There was a fellow drinking at the bar who asked me some questions about my trip from Toronto, and I sat with him and chatted for a while.  Turned out he was a contractor from the Halifax area who used to live near Toronto.  His friend, a bass player who played in the Halifax area, joined him later and we started having an animated discussion about the music scene on the east coast and the fact that there were “too many blues bands” in the clubs here.  They both said it was refreshing to hear something different, and I felt a lot better after hearing that.

After my second set, a lovely (and slightly crazy) elderly lady named Barbara came up to me and said “welcome to Nova Scotia!  I love your music!” with a warm smile and a strong handshake.  She went on to repeat that about ten times during the night, and even danced across the floor a couple of times to my songs.  It was nice to know that people were actually listening.  My new friends (the contractor and the bass player) were also more supportive now, clapping after every song and throwing some positive comments my way.  They ended up being my only audience at the end of the night (I finished at midnight), so I really appreciated them being there.

In the end, it would have been nicer to have a bigger audience, but like at the Rockbottom and Plan B, they were positive and supportive, and I came away with a great feeling about the East Coast in the end.  I may not have been able to reach a lot of people, but the people that I did seemed to like my music.  And in the end, that’s all you can ask for.

PEGGY’S COVE – JULY 22

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I had an extra day to do some sightseeing thanks to the very kind Gloria Burbridge, who hosted the house concert I played in Brooklyn.  She graciously offered a place to stay on the way back, which allowed me to look around Halifax and visit Peggy’s Cove.

Peggy’s Cove was quite the hike from Halifax, and incredibly busy for a Monday (!?).  Beautiful, but very touristy.

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Some other beautiful bays near to Peggy’s Cove.

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I also took some time to visit the Swissair Flight 111 memorial just outside Peggy’s Cove.  Like many who watched the news at the time (1998), I was heartbroken to hear about the terrible disaster that claimed 229 lives (the plane crashed due to an onboard fire and all of the passengers and crew perished).  But there was also a heartwarming element to the story, as the people of Peggy’s Cove and neighbouring communities opened their homes and hearts to the relatives of the victims who came from all over the world to mourn and come to terms with the disaster.  It showed the best of Canadian heart, warmth and spirit in the face of tragedy.

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So many other places I wanted to see on this trip – I missed the lookout near Grand Pré (which is supposed to be spectacular) and a bunch of places I would have liked to have seen in New Brunswick.  Oh well, I guess I will have to save that for the next tour!

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