Saturday, October 27, 2007

Red Onion, Calgary, AB, Sell Out Show with the CBC Recording!

In short- a sell out show in this massive club. Recorded by the CBC for two different radio shows. Merch sales over the top. Great hotel. Great food. Friendly folks. Life is very, very good tonight out here on the Big Road. I came back to flesh this day's story out a little- so it's a long blog, but I think it tells a little more about our day...

It was one of our longer road days today. We were up and on the road by 6:AM, fueled by several of Tim's biggest coffees. There is a great little diner on the main drag in Penticton, but it was not open (nor was anything except Tim's) when we had to roll. The Dream had invited us to breakfast, too, oh well- next time! Good thing we were out early. The roads up the valley can be very slow during the day, but here, in the pre-dawn hours we made good time to the Big Road.

The road east, over the pass, past Banff, and into Calgary was a pretty one to drive. With the time change we spent about 9 or 10 hours in the truck. This is what it looked like out the window.

I had been telling people that the Red Onion was the big, downtown blues club in Calgary. My heart sunk when I discovered that it was, in fact, in the south suburbs of the city- in what appeared to be a modern strip mall near the highway. I had no cause for worry! From the moment I walked into the club I noticed it's cool vibe, great set-up, friendly staff and decor. The stage is huge, well set up, curtained, banks of lights, tons of monitors, stands, a very modern sound booth with top notch gear... pictures and posters on the walls of all kinds of great blues shows that have played here. This place has all the feel of a great downtown club- without the layers of decay and grime. This is a class blues room with great sightlines. I was later to discover it also has great food- much better than pub fare- and a very efficient, friendly staff. After checking in with the day manager, Dave and I made the short drive to our hotel for a brief rest.

We were to be back at the club to load in and set up in about an hour's time, so we hauled our personal gear up to our rooms and had a few moments to ourselves before jumping into the frey. Nice rooms- mine was a suite which included a separate television and office room. I put this to work and got the merch sheets together for tonight's show. A quick shave, a quick change into my suit and I'm off to meet Dave. He's looking good, too, so off we go to load in and set up.

Red Onion manager Rick met us at the door and helped us in with our gear. He's an old pal of Dave's, so I'm pleased to meet him, and not surprised that he's very much on the ball with this show. Apparently the phone has been ringing off the hook, every table is reserved, this will definitely be a sell out show. Rick and his staff have a pep talk and a planning session as Dave and I arrange our gear on stage. The CBC sound truck has arrived, and I need to move our van in order that their rig can squeeze close to the side door. Dave and I get a bite to eat while the CBC technician starts to run cables. By the time we've finished our meals the house sound man has arrived and has us roughed in and ready for sound check. It's still early, but there is a line-up outside the club, and Dave and I are pumped to blow these folks away tonight.

Stage sound is pretty good, although I wonder if we are going to be loud enough for this room. Apparently it all sounds good in the truck, too- so we're done, and the doors are opened. Our merch booth is set up, and switched on. We'll now go back to the hotel for another hour or so to relax as much as we can before showtime.

That our return to the Red Onion was delayed by a lack of parking was a good sign indeed. The place was now very crowded. I had a brief meeting with CBC producer Catherine McClelland, who introduced me to Katherine Duncan- one of CBCs unique radio voices. She's younger than I thought she would be. It's always a surprise, meeting a radio voice. We're recording tonight for 2 CBC shows- Canada Live and Saturday Night Blues. Showtime! We mixed up our set a bit, but here's what I think we played-

Set One:
Feel Like Goin' Home (M. Morganfield) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr., w. Doc MacLean, gtr.
Charlie James' Blues (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Mama 'Taint Long Fo' Day (Blind Willie McTell) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr.
Jinx Blues (Son House) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Atlanta Moan (Barbecue Bob) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr.
Dead Men Walking (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr, w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Fixin' to Die (Bukka White) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr, w. Doc MacLean gtr./percussion
I Lacks a Nickel, Spadina Blues (J. MacLean, SOCAN), - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr, w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Standing At The Crossroads (Robert Johnson)- Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr.
Jimmie Lee Jackson's Blues (J. MacLean, SOCAN), - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., Big Dave McLean, harmonica, voc.

Set Two:
Don't Go No Further (W. Dixon) - Big Dave McLean, voc, gtr., w. Doc MacLean, voc.
Roll and Tumble (trad. arr. MacLean) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Sweet Home Chicago, (Robert Johnson) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr., w. Doc MacLean, harmonica
Bone Train (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Rainin' In my Heart, (Slim Harpo) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr.
Johnson Terraplane (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Kind Hearted Woman, (Robert Johnson) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr., w. Doc MacLean, harmonica
Angola Prison Rodeo Blues (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
You Got to Move, (trad. arrange McLean) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr., w. Doc MacLean, voc
Three Cards on a Coffin (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Walking Blues (Son House) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr., w. Doc MacLean, harmonica

The first set was tougher to play than we would of hoped. The great sound we'd had for sound check seemed to have vanished, and we struggled to hear ourselves at all. I'm told it sounded great in the mains, and in the truck, but I know I was having to sing and play too hard, and missed some bits simply because I couldn't hear to play my guitar and was a bit distracted. This was kind of disappointing, as we really wanted to give our best show for the CBC recording. Our sound guy got right on the case- I think the giant crowd had really changed the sound-shape of the room. For our second set it sounded great on stage, so we settled in to knock 'em dead. A great job with the sound- thanks! Did I mention that the cone had partially collapsed on Dave's National during the first set? Trying to work gracefully around this he ended up breaking yet another string on his Gibson Northern Jumbo... and I found myself playing on not one, but two blown harps! That's all the stuff you probably don't (and hopefully don't!) notice behind and inside the show. What really counts is that we played really well, dug way into a bunch of heavy blues, had a ball, and got a standing ovation at the end! We sold a pile of cds and tour merch as well. Another great night for the Big Road Blues Tour!

A long closure as we sign cds, say our good-byes and thank yous, and pack up our gear. Dave strolled back to the hotel while I waited on the club to wrap it's books for the night and take care of business. Rick and I end up sitting in the office for an hour or so, talking branding, marketing, gossip, blues. I get back to the hotel sometime around 3:AM, and make a quick stop at their small business centre to check on email. I've got to do this pretty much every day to advance the Tour, set up phoners and stay in touch with the upcoming venues and promoters. By 4:AM I'm in the wrapper. We'll sleep in a little bit as our next drive will only be a couple of hours.

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