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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Wolfville and Halifax, Nova Scotia!

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WOLFVILLE FARMERS MARKET

July 20, 10:00 am.

Wolfville is about an hour away from Halifax, so I left early to allow lots of travel time from Dartmouth, which is where I was staying.

For once, Google Maps was correct!  I had back-up directions from Jenny ready too though, just in case.

I had just recently escaped the heatwave in Toronto (45+ C with humidity) and I was appreciating the lower East Coast temperatures.  Until today.

It was the hottest day of the tour.  40 degrees with the humidex on this very sunny Saturday.  There was a nice breeze at the Farmers Market, but unfortunately the stage was against the wall of a building.  No breeze.

I could feel the heat burning me as soon as I stepped on the stage to set up.  For those of you who don’t know, heat and me don’t get along.  I tend to sweat copious amounts on a freezing, air-conditioned stage just because I’m under the lights.  So you can imagine what 40 degrees while performing is like.

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I set up my equipment, grabbed a towel and made the best of it.

I was booked to play from 10 am to 1 pm, with breaks, but due to some power issues, I didn’t get started until about 10:30.  Apparently a lot of people stayed away from the Farmers Market because of the heat, but there was still a considerable crowd milling about.  It was certainly the biggest audience I had played for since coming out to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

There were a couple firsts at this show for me.  #1 – it was my first outdoor show as a solo artist.  I had done a couple before with bands, but this was the first time it was just me and my piano.  No helpful stage banter, no jamming with the band, no one to cover if you didn’t happen to know a good joke.  The whole spotlight was on me.  #2 – this was my first “busking” show.  Ever.  The Farmers Market was kind enough to let me put up a sign, advertise my CDs and also collect money through busking (and the show was paid as well!).  Pretty awesome.

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Photo by Chris Peters

You know what else was really awesome?  People actually sat and listened.  People clapped.  Little children danced to the music, and parents gave them money to put in my busking basket.  Several people took pictures and video, and took the time to tell me that they enjoyed the show.  I sold three CDs, made a couple of new fans and really enjoyed myself.

That is, until I started feeling lightheaded and dizzy, and started forgetting which song I was playing (I literally blanked on the lyrics to my own song that I had played, oh, about 1,000 times).  I had taken regular breaks (and thanked God for the breeze just off the stage), but the heat was really getting to me.  I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and I looked like I had a third-degree sunburn.  But I wasn’t in the sun!!  I was just being cooked.  Slowly, and well done.

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I packed up around 1:30, and quickly headed for anywhere with A/C.  I ended up at the Just Us Cafe, on the main street of Wolfville.  After dunking my head in the cold water in their sink, I managed to hang out long enough to cool down and feel better.  I had definitely been suffering from heat stroke, and I’m glad I didn’t have to play any longer than I did.  And it was a very cool coffee shop.

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Artwork at the Just Us Cafe, Wolfville

When I had recovered my balance and my sanity, I took the scenic tour out of Wolfville (very pretty town, reminds me a bit of Unionville in Ontario).  Here is the stunning Blomidon Inn, which is where I would really love to stay when I come back!!

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My future home, Wolfville NS

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ROCKBOTTOM BREW PUB

July 20, 10:00pm

Here’s another first.  Two shows in one day!  Not only that, I had already played for three hours and was suffering from heat stroke.  Was I going to be able to pull this off?

Luckily I had already been to the Rockbottom Brew Pub a few days earlier for the Open Mic.  So my chances of getting lost were reduced.  A bit.

This was the first time I actually was able to meet the wonderful singer/songwriter who had booked the whole tour for me, Jenny MacDonald.  I was actually on my way to see her in Toronto several months earlier for NXNE, when my car was hit by someone running a red light in Pickering.  Needless to say, I didn’t make the show, and felt incredibly guilty about it.

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It was great to chat with Jenny and although it was a slow night, both her and her friends and fans were wonderfully supportive.  And despite not feeling well from the morning show, I actually put on the best performance of the tour.  I really had fun!  And Jenny’s set was fantastic – she has a wonderful, bluesy voice with some very personal, captivating songs.  You can check out her original music here:

http://jennymacdonald.com

Next up:  Freeman’s Li’l New Yorker (huh?) and Peggy’s Cove!!

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Quebec and New Brunswick, here we come! (or, mon français est très mal . . .)

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Mon July 15, 2013

10:00 am – left early with the best intentions of getting to Quebec City by approx. 7 pm, but we all know about best intentions . . .

Loading the car was tricky, as I had a full PA, keyboard, stand, laptop, cooler, luggage, cables galore, and of course everything had to be double and triple-checked.  Almost left without my chargers!!  No room for a chair or bench, so I will hopefully be able to use something on the road.

I realized I needed posters and some promotion for my shows and I hadn’t had time to print any up.  So I left early to stop and print some of them.  Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long, and I was able to get back on the road fairly quickly.

3:00 pm – got to Kingston – and then I realized I was going to hit Montreal in rush hour.  No way around it, crossed my fingers, and . . . sat in glacially slow traffic for an hour.  Geez, Montreal, why do your highways have to be so hard to follow? Thank God for Google.  Although, it would help if you had the correct names for the highways.  Some of them have changed, you know.  Just sayin’.

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Loving the new ON ROUTE stops – last time I took the highway they were all closed, under construction.  Really good job, though.  Reduced waste from water, electricity, all environmentally friendly-like.  And WI-FI!  But . . . couldn’t you have something besides Tim Hortons and Pizza Pizza?  Really?

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There is 10 km of construction for every 1 km of clear highway from Montreal to Quebec City.  I’m not kidding.  Half the time you are driving in one lane, *on the shoulder of the highway*!!  Do you guys really need to repair the *whole damn thing* at once???

7:00 pm – stopped for dinner at a McDonalds between Montreal and QC.  My painful French is met with their painful English.  Hilariousness results.  Got to dig out those Grade 9 French texts again . . .

9:00 pm – FINALLY arrived in Quebec City.  Then . . . . got lost for about half an hour.  WHY DOES EVERY TURN END UP ON A HIGHWAY???  THAT YOU CAN’T GET OFF FROM???

9:30 pm – checked in at the hotel . . . and crashed.  Nice warm bath to relax my aching back from 8 hours plus of driving, and then bedtime.

NEWS ALERT: Guess what? Nova Scotia is an hour ahead of Toronto.  Good thing I realized this THE NIGHT BEFORE MY GIG IN MONCTON.  Clocks ahead one hour before bed.  Going to be leaving EARLY – 8 more driving hours on the road and I have to be there by 8 pm.

Tues July 16, 2013

8:00 am – had a truly awful continental breakfast at the hotel before heading out at 8 am (really 9 am Nova Scotia time!) – how the hell do you mangle “un café, s’il vous plait, merci”??  I guess I needed the café before ordering.

Checked Google Maps to make sure I could find my way out of the hotel without a half hour detour, and I was off to Moncton.

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CONSTRUCTION AGAIN!!!  Geez, guys, is this a Quebec make-work project or something?  Basically on and off every 5 km to the New Brunswick border.

Yes, New Brunswick has crappy, bumpy highways.  But at least there is no construction!!!

Interesting New Brunswick notes:  everyone speaks French here first!  Bit of a shock.  Big French community here, everyone is bilingual.

The speed on the highway here is 110.  110!!!  Ontario, do you hear that??

1:00 pm – stopped in Edmunston, NB for lunch, and back on the road to Moncton!

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Slight detour to try out the Iron Throne.  😛

6:00 pm – arrived in Moncton ahead of time (yay!  No construction!!).

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6:05 pm – got lost again trying to find the club (thanks crappy Google Maps) and honestly didn’t know where the hell I was.  Ended up getting back on the highway, retracing my steps about 50 km and starting all over again.

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7:00 pm – Finally found PLAN B!  Lucky for me, as I was supposed to be starting at 9 pm (I had 10 pm on my schedule!!).  No problem. Quick stage setup and sound check, and then . . . BASHED MY HEAD ON A SPEAKER.  Really hard.

I was already dizzy from a long day of driving.  Smashing your skull doesn’t help that very much.  I actually have a welt there, even after icing it.  Apparently this is just an initiation ritual at Plan B.  It is hanging at perfect head height at the corner of the stage just as you walk off.  Some advice guys:  POST A SIGN.  PLEASE.

9:30 pm – it was a slow night, but the people who drifted in and out were very supportive and appreciative.  Took some requests (Elton John, Supertramp), but people seemed genuinely interested in hearing original material.  That’s a nice change!  Had a nice chat with a couple of guys from Moncton.  One of them bought me a beer, the other joined my mailing list and promised to bring down more people if I came back again.

Plan B provided accommodations upstairs from the club, which was a nice touch.  No A/C though, on one of the hottest days of the summer, in a room with no circulation or windows.  In an apartment shared with four other sweaty musicians!  Everyone was friendly, though, and I made some new fans, some new friends, and came away with a great impression of East Coast generosity.  Thanks, guys, and I hope to see you again!

Next up:  Nova Scotia!

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Lots of excitement for 2013!

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Well, it’s been a while since I posted, but there are so many exciting things coming up that I just had to provide an update.

It’s now a NEW YEAR, so it’s time for lots of new things!!  How about a couple of great shows to start with!

NEW SHOWS:

Saturday April 13th at Habits,

and a huge one at Musideum on Wednesday, May 22.

Both will be with a full band, and the Musideum show is going to be featuring a beautiful Bechstein grand piano (fifth member of the band, perhaps?), and it will also be filmed and recorded live!  I’ll also be introducing a very special guest – the lovely and talented Holly Cheng on violin!

But wait!  That’s not all!  😉

NEW SONGS:

I have four brand new songs that I will be showcasing along with material from my most recent album “Great Expectations”!  I have been a very busy, busy little songwriter the last couple of months . . . those who know me well can tell you it often takes me 6 months to finish a song.  So this is a big deal for me!

And last, but certainly not least . . .

EAST COAST TOUR (JULY 2013)

I’m going on an East Coast tour!  Yes, plans are already underway with a great amount of help from a wonderful East Coast songwriter by the name of Jenny MacDonald.  Jenny has been a terrific help with setting up a series of shows in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for me, and the details will be coming very soon!  In the meantime, don’t forget to check out her CMW show at the Cameron House on March 22nd (7 pm).  She really deserves the support!

You can read about the new shows at my website here:

http://www.jeffalangreenway.com

And I will be posting some new videos featuring some of the new songs soon!  You can always check out my latest videos here:

http://www.youtube.com/jeffalangreenway

Thanks, as always, for your wonderful support, and I hope to see you all at my upcoming shows in Toronto or out east!

Cheers,

Jeff.

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