Saturday, October 28, 2006

Take me to the Bridge (Colorblind's Prague Diary)

As I look around for my little notepad where I wrote some points to remember for this blog, I can't seem to find it. If I was home or anywhere but Prague I would assume that I had misplaced it but now I'm thinking it was swiped out of my jacket pocket as I strolled down Wenceslasss Square for a sausage from a street vendor. Well, it's only fitting that my last day in Prague I got accosted by a hooker and had my pocket picked (probably at the same time - I thought she bid a very hasty retreat when I expressed disinterest). The notebook had a few addresses I wanted to keep as well as the set list I used for the last couple of gigs - nothing as disastrous as the loss of my wallet on the Prague subway (yes, I had it in my front pocket...these people are artists!).

Nevertheless, It's been a great time. The food was way better than 4 years ago. The people are beautiful (except for the pickpockets of course) and the audience last night in Pisek was the greatest - I don't know why I bothered with a lot of spoken introductions because I know very few of them understood anything I was saying but they sure got into it when the music started. I was back together with my old musical buddy Butch Coulter who lives in Dresden now (we played there too) and we were having a real good time, despite the fact that we had to travel by train, then bus to get there. Originally we thought we'd have a driver but he's a new daddy, and family comes first. His name was Hunsa (?) and he came to the gig - he was Long John Baldry's driver and did Rita Chiarelli's last European tour. Another old friend, Pavel Mil*** (I'd have these names right if I still had my notebook) got us a PA and we invited him to sit in at the end of the second set and boy can he play guitar. Hope I get to play with him again next - and we are already planning a next time...but I think I'll skip Prague.

I played here twice, both at the same club and I was supposed to go back again tonight and sit in with the house band but I decided to lay low on my last night and get ready for the flight tomorrow. I spent a few hours working on the MapleBlues newsletter - I was able to get a lot done using a new program called Google Docs & Spreadshheets. Those guys at Google are geniuses...generous geniuses because they don't even charge you to use it!

Day one in Prague I made my way to the foot of the square and into the "old town" where hundreds of people are gathered around the legendary "Astronomical Clock" waiting for something to happen on the hour, but I couldn't see anything happening - I could hear the bell tolling but that was it. The next biggest tourist attraction is the Charles Bridge and I didn't get to see that until a couple of days later. It is a marvel, with all these imposing statues built into it...sort of an "abandon all hope ye who enter" vibe. The Castle is quite phenomenal but I never made it inside. Last time I came back from the Czech Republic everybody was saying "Whadaya mean, you didn't see Prague?" Now everybody will say "Whadayamean you didn't go to the castle???" I was grateful to have a direct flight, but I hope Czech Air has more up-to-date electronics in their cockpit than they do for the movies. The audio was totally overloaded and only in one ear. I think I was the only person on the flight that bothered with it.

I stayed at a nice "penzion" at the top of the square - more of a boulevard, really. As I walked along, I was reminded a bit of Provincetown where they alway have "shills" out in the street trying to attract customers for the show. In P-Town they were mostly guys dressed as Marilyn Monroe or something like that but here it's mosty black guys dressed up in colourful "doorman" outfits. And the entertainment they are drawing you to is mostly strip bars - I gather Prague was rather sleazy in the early 90s but they've gotten a lot more civilized. One guy was trying to get me into his strip bar and I said I was looking for a blues band and he said "These girls play blues!"

Well I saw eight or ten blues and jazz bars in Prague and there were a couple of decent ones but the fact is, none of them pay anything comparable to Germany or even smaller Czech cities. It's the classic case of a big music centre full of scuffling musicians and even the top notch guys are happy to get the equivalent of $40 and would often work for less. Marg Stowe was playing in town and invited me to open for her show and also guided me around a bit for those first few days. She delivered some serious jazz fusion - I think she's been calling it "psychedelic jazz" and the people here ate it up. She had a great back-up group of locals. The keyboard guy was something else and she said the drummer was fabulous with the odd time signatures (I wouldn't really know if an odd time signature was being well played or not).

Lynn Macdonald is another Toronto musician who played the Akord (the club I was supposed to go jam at tonight) and she had some sweet players too. The musicianship is quite phenomenal. There was a concert of Mozart arias earlier this evening at the Museum down the street and I should have gone can't do everything. I came here to play and write. Well I got to play plenty, but it's just as well that I didn't get around to writing any new tunes because the lyrics would have gone south with my notebook.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

The Muldaur Martin

Geoff Muldaur played at Hugh's Room last night and I ran into some
like-minded guitar aficionados, Mr. Rick, Ken Whiteley, Eve Goldberg,
Tony Burns and a big fan, Jane Moore from Sam The Record Man, pictured here with Geoff.

It turns out that Geoff has a new "signature" model Martin
Guitar - the 00-18H. It sounded great, but I'm sure a lot of that had to do
with the pickup, which was a Highlander system. Just the sound I've been
looking for, I thought. Don't know how much was the guitar and how much was
the pickup. But the guitar is $4,000 and the pickup is $125. So you can
guess which I will try first.

Muldaur was still fuming that Canada Customs did not let him bring in CDs to
sell. He talked about playing at a Buddhist Temple in Japan (Yamaguchi) and
had a great story about an editorial cartoon he saw after the launch of
Voyageur (which contained digitized music from all cultures and all ages).
The cartoon showed a rocket ship crashed back to earth with a note that said
"Send More Chuck Berry". After Geoff Muldaur, I dropped in to the Orbit Room
to see LMT Connection for the first time - I even had $5 at hand to pay my
way in, because it's not one of those place I can just walk in. Anyway, it
was $8 so I listened to a little bit then moved on down the road to
Thymeless where my own flesh and blood was spinning...but alas he wasn't
there yet, so I made my way home. Still baskling in the beautiful space that
Muldaur created.

Monday night I went to meet Tannis and not only did she bring along a kora
for me to mess around with but she gave me a showcase slot at the OCFF
conference. I'll be hosting the Toronto Blues Society Showcase at 11:30 in
the Chaudiere Room on the Convention Level. I've got a feeling that's a very
big room for our purposes. I'll be the "tweener" and maybe for a change I
should give a little thought to what tunes I will play. Then, thanks to
Tannis, I will be doing a showcase on the Saturday Night from 1:00-1:25 in a
room to be determined. I think we're going to call it the "Milk & Cookies"
Suite at the The Crowne Plaza Hotel, 101 Lyon Street North in Ottawa. Here's the full schedule

>>>> Friday Night

Tannis Slimmon Midnight to 12:25
Dale Nikkel 12:30-12:55
Steve Schellenberg 1-1:25
Allister: 1:30-2:00am (Still tentative)

>>>> Saturday Night

Tannis Slimmon Midnight to 12:25
Dale Nikkel 12:30-12:55
Brian Blain 1-1:25