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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Brooklyn and Halifax, Nova Scotia!

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Next stop on the East Coast Tour . . . . . Brooklyn?

It seems most on the East Coast don’t even know where Brooklyn is.  I mentioned I was playing a house concert there to a few people in Moncton and received puzzled looks.  It’s a very small town, far off the beaten path, about 40 minutes from Halifax.  Problem is:  Google Maps thinks it is in Enfield.  That’s right, Google Maps is pulling an Apple Maps and trying to put people in the middle of the ocean. Well, kind of. I had to triple check directions, and they were more than a little confusing.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to ever get there.  I found by putting in the postal code that it gave more accurate directions that I could combine with the host’s directions and hopefully end up where I was supposed to.  Google calculated the time as about 3 hours, 7 minutes to get there.  I had plenty of time, right?

So, I stopped for breakfast and lunch in Moncton before heading out.  While sitting in Starbucks for breakfast, I noticed what looked like a familiar face a few tables down.  Paul Milner?  Couldn’t be.  Paul was a producer and engineer (and genuinely nice guy) that I worked with in the 90s for a few recordings.  I hadn’t seen him in about 15 years, and the last I heard he was working at some studio in the U.S.  So, I figured he was also living in the U.S.  What the hell was he doing in Moncton??  I looked up info on him online, and couldn’t find any information on his location.  He was busy talking to someone, so I thought I would approach him to ask just before I left.  Next time I looked up, he was gone.

So I messaged Paul through Facebook and it turned out, it was him!  He lives in PEI now and he offered to put me up and find me a gig there!  Unfortunately it was for a night I couldn’t make it.  And that was the second gig in PEI I had to turn down because of my schedule.  Damn!

So I gradually found my way to the highway, and I left with plenty of time (3.5 hours) to get to the house concert about an hour early to setup.  Right?  NO.

It turned out, not only did Google Maps have the location initially wrong, the travel time was wrong too.  3.5 hours later, I STILL WASN’T THERE.  I was looking for “Exit 4” for half an hour.  It was a really long stretch of highway.  I was basically flying all the way there, thinking I was going to be late for the show.  I eventually got there 40 minutes before the performance, which really wasn’t ideal.  But I was there.

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My host was Gloria, a lovely lady who runs a “healing centre” called “Flap Your Wings Empowerment Oasis”.  They offer services such as Reiki, Theta healing and “spine cleansing”, which sounds mildly horrifying (but I’m sure it’s wonderful).   Gloria was a very welcoming host, as were the hundreds of mosquitoes in the area, who made a quick lunch of my knee (how do you end up with three bites in the same place??).  I quickly doused myself with mosquito repellent and went to set up.

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Gloria, Donny and me.

Flap Your Wings is a nice old house with a fairly big living room, which is where I set up.  It turned out to be another small audience (6, if you include the host), but I knew that it would probably be small in advance.  They were very friendly, and I made good friends with Donny, an elderly gentleman who had recently had a stroke and had difficulty walking and speaking (he had lost much of the use of the right side of his body).  He shouted out “Good!” at the end of every song with a big smile on his face.  That made my night.

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Gloria put me up for the night at her house next door, and even offered to let me stay longer.  That was extremely nice of her.  But I had just booked a hotel in Dartmouth for the two nights I was off (I was panicking that I wouldn’t have a place to stay, and would have to pay last-minute prices on a hotel).  So, after a nice breakfast and after Gloria and Winnie (her best friend and resident house concert cook) sent me with a nice care package of delicious home-made sandwiches and banana bread, I headed off.

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Avondale Wharf, Avondale.

My plan was to do some sight-seeing on my way down to Dartmouth, but one wrong turn on the highway and I accidentally ended up in Halifax instead of where I had planned to go.  I did see a beautiful little town called Avondale, which had a pretty little wharf with the reddest sand you have ever seen (except, perhaps, in PEI!).

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It also had a really gorgeous church just down the road.

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So, what do you do when you arrive in Halifax at 3 pm in the afternoon with nothing to do?  Well, you go sight-seeing in Halifax!  So, I drove around the city trying desperately not to get lost (but did, several times – DAMN YOU GOOGLE!!).

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Halifax!

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Halifax Public Gardens, Spring Garden St.

Found my way downtown to the Rockbottom Pub (which I am playing Saturday), found the all-important coffee shops (Second Cup!  YES!).  And eventually found my way to Dartmouth over the INCREDIBLY slow MacDonald toll bridge.  It’s bad enough when it’s rush hour in Halifax . . . why do you have to stop for tolls too on your way across the two busiest bridges in Halifax???

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There is also a toll portion of the highway between Moncton and Halifax.  I understand that they need money to maintain them, but surely there could be a better way than slowing everyone down to a crawl.  407, people!  Check it out!  Yes, the fees are way too high, but the cameras work a lot better than toll booths.

It turned out that the Rockbottom Pub had an open mic night on Thursdays.  So I decided to go down to promote my Saturday show.  People were really friendly – I met another touring musician from B.C., Michael Averill, who I spent a good deal of time chatting with on the pros and cons of touring, and how to save money on accommodations (apparently, in 3 years, he has never had to pay for a hotel.  And he’s done a LOT of touring around Canada).

The bar was pretty loud, so I didn’t get a lot of “listeners” for my set, but it was a good experience and I got some positive comments afterwards.  The highlight for me was seeing a local Halifax reggae band. Yes, you read that right.  REGGAE.  Three older gentlemen, one of which had a cowbell, two cymbals and a tambourine permanently attached to his djembe.  Very cool.  And they were quite good!

I headed back to the hotel to prepare for a couple really intensive days of shows (two in one day!!) and to get some sleep.  Next up, Wolfville!  (awoooooooooooooo!)  🙂

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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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