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Tag archive: Notes from the Road (5)

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Notes from the Road: Bleeker – Back to California

Canadian alternative rock outfit Bleeker is currently on the road in support of their debut album Erase You. Following a tour of the UK, the three-person band returns to California, and shares their experiences in our Notes from the Road tour blog series.

 

We’re baaaaack. After sleeping for 20 hours straight we woke up, and headed out for breakfast. American breakfast! We sat on a patio in the sun. This was a great meal. We filled our manager in on all of our stories and talked about what was next on the agenda…

Three quick shows and all in a row! We rented a large SUV and headed to Tucson the next day to play a festival with Weezer. Then a really fun bar show in Phoenix where we hopped back on the party train. Lots of people, and lots of fun. Then to San Diego… a little bar with 8 very nice people, and one drugged-out crazy blonde lady who came on stage and spray painted the other bands drum set while we were playing. Three very different shows, all with their own distinct charms. 

We also dug up something we had buried in the desert near the Texas border a few months prior while on tour with Sublime and the Dirty Heads. It was still there…

Back to LA for some time off. Five Days to be exact! This was needed. We weren’t run down anymore, like we were in the UK, but there’s something about having NOTHING to do that really lets you relax to your full potential. By the 5th day we were very ready to play again and start our week of promo. Our first show back was with a band called The Psychedelic Furs. An old-school band with a great fan base. We played an awesome room in Orange County called the Observatory.
Promo! My girlfriend Sam flew down to visit me just in time for promo week. We spent the next couple of days travelling to different sync agencies playing acoustically for their staff. In and out of office buildings, home studios, and warehouses shaking hands and meeting the people who might take our songs and put them into movies, commercials, etc.


The performances are surprisingly low stress situations with no gear to move, and free food and drinks. A cake walk one could say. We met some really great people and got a look into another part of the music industry.

In the five years we’ve been together Sam’s never seen this part of my life. Her eyes were opened just a little bit more. She asked me if this is what people would consider “selling out”. I told her I look at it as “buying in”. I’ve never viewed these things in a negative light. Writing songs that people will like and making money that allows me to continue making music for the rest of my life? Sounds horrible. Musicians that feel any different about this should get over themselves in my opinion. Never take yourself TOO seriously. Anyways, if I haven’t made an enemy out of you after that last comment.. on we go!

Four more days off! But devoted to traveling and sightseeing. Having an “outsider” with us was needed. If Sam wasn’t there we would have drank and ate pizza all day every day until our next set of shows. Instead, we rented a Jeep and travelled to many different places. Some new, some old. Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Malibu, Palm Springs, Salvation Mountain, Joshua Tree, Beverly Hills, and a very weird place called Slab City. If you don’t like uncontrolled desert communities with no running water or laws…this place isn’t for you. To round it all off, we spent Halloween right near the Sunset strip at a gay parade. We walked through some of the craziest crowds and coolest costumes I have ever seen. The thing I remember most is how the whole street smelled like a cologne atom bomb had gone off.  It was intense. Actually, the whole night was intense in general. We finally got home, drank more beer, and ordered Dominos as usual. Amazing.

Sam flew home the next day and we were off to do three more shows before going back to cold Canada. The shows were with The Struts who are always fun. Two of the shows were in some legendary venues. The Fillmore, and my personal fave – The Fonda! Located on Hollywood Blvd. Imagine standing on stage behind a massive curtain with three of your friends. And then that curtain slowly rises to 1200 music fans/industry peeps standing there waiting to watch you play. Always a rush and the reason we love playing live. Honestly, I think I just really liked the idea of the curtain! Old school. More venues should invest.

Then, some very sad goodbyes with Adam, our manager. We thanked him for putting us up in his house for the majority of our trip. Introducing us to his friends and family. Showing us around, feeding us… I could go on and on. One of the bests hosts I’ve ever been lucky enough to have. We hopped in our new 15 passenger van and drove north towards BC and our first show with Canadian rock royalty, The Trews! Finally headed home.

Thoughts and feelings:

  •  Sometimes it’s better not to be cheap and just spend the money…like on nicer hotels
  •  Joshua Tree takes more than 3 hours to see
  •  You can develop a travelling rhythm
  •  Just because people work in a fancy building, doesn’t mean they are fancy people

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Notes from the Road: Bleeker tours the UK

bleeker-bio-photoCanadian alternative rock outfit Bleeker is currently on the road in support of their debut album Erase You, touring through Canada with The Trews for the remainder of 2016. The three-person band will be sharing their experiences in our Notes from the Road tour blog series.

Notes from the Road is Music Canada’s artist tour diary. Canadian artists on tour around the world will share their stories of fans, gigs and the “good, bad and the ugly” of touring! This week, Bleeker vocalist Taylor Perkins shares his experiences touring through the UK.

20161007_1525382_resized10 sleepless hours overnight, I finally landed in London. Sleepless because I couldn’t stop watching all the new releases they had on the flight. Our tour manager Pete Bright picked us up. We’d never met him before but he would be our handler for the next 10 days. We grabbed some beer, our drummer Chris (already in the UK touring with another band) and then it was off to our label rep Gary’s house for the next few nights. An energized Englishmen who we met a month or two before in Miami.

With a few beers in us, we skipped a recommended nap and went out. Our bass player Mike’s dog had been hit by a car so we grabbed bottle of whiskey and drank it quick. What else could cheer him up more than that? Or make him more sad…no way to know. Dinner, and bar hopping lasted until 3am. I tried my best to have conversations with the locals but everyone seemed to be from somewhere other then London. We all crashed in a small living room area, scattered around the room with alcohol themed sleeping bags. Alcohol is my secret enemy on tour, and it was everywhere. The industry seems to run on it.

Waking up extremely tired, we packed what we needed and headed to the venue in Bristol. I don’t know if it was jet lag or hangriness, but the UK hadn’t impressed me yet. It was cloudy, and a bit cold. This feeling lasted through the next day or two. Maybe I missed California and the familiarities.20161013_191815_resized

The shows in Bristol, London, and Nottingham were great! However, we were the first of three bands, which means we didn’t get anything we needed. Sound checks were abandoned for throw n’ goes and sometimes even setting up as fans came into the venue. It’s hard to be cool and mysterious with your pants down like that, but it was fun nonetheless. Less formal but in a good way. The stages were small so the drums were shoved to the front every night, which left us all with a few feet of room. Deafening drums, and getting hit by guitars were standard happenings each night.

We got to meet our Radio/Promo team, and we did some great interviews with French magazines. The crowds were super accepting too. Most didn’t know we were even playing since we were added to the tour so late in the game, and we weren’t included on the posters or promo. It’s an uphill battle! Being the underdog is the easiest position on a bill in my opinion. No expectations and only room to go up!! If you suck.. it’s what the people expected haha

Next up were Glasgow, Manchester, and Wolverhampton. All great shows and the vibe was getting much better. We had spent more time with the other bands and started becoming friends. The other opening band Dinosaur Pile Up screenshot_2016-10-14-01-41-392had the same humor as us, and sharing dressing rooms sometimes became great times. Too many beers, making fun of each other’s accents, and keeping each other entertained.

We stayed in some nice hotels, and some terrible hostels. Each day on tour can change so much – from luxury to squalor. 3 square meals, to one breakfast sandwich and a bag of chips. The next couple days to come will I HOPE be the worst of this 3 month tour. It all started with the always great idea to not sleep..

We left Wolverhampton for the airport and flew to Berlin over night. No one slept, we had only a couple beers and adrenaline from the show fueling us. We showed up to our hotel freezing and exhausted. We were ready to sleep the day away in preparation for our headline show and radio appearances that night. Our hotel turned out to be a weird apartment style building above an unlicensed dentist and a Middle Eastern Market. It was 10 am. It was supposed to open at 11am. It opened at 12pm. We waited outside in the half rainy wetness huddled for warmth. The door finally opened, only for us to find out they lost our reservation and rooms weren’t available till 3pm. bleekerhotelWe tried to sleep on the hardwood floor near the lobby. Didn’t work. By the time we settled into our room it was 3:30 and sound check was at 5. No sleep.

The venue was great! Big backroom with all the beer and food we needed. Alcohol.. our enemy turned saviour at this point. We had an amazing 60 minute show to our first crowd in Germany. A highlight of the trip for sure!

Still no sleep and off to the airport to catch an early flight back to L.A. “United Airline computers are down and your flight is delayed as well” said Pete Bright with a half smile, showing he thought the same 20161004_171031_resizedthing as us.. “Of course”. We tried to sleep on the cement floor in line to check our bags.. but at this point it was useless. After 2 nights of no sleep we finally boarded our 15-hour flight, scrambled with layovers. If you’ve ever gone on tour, or stayed up that long you’ll know there’s an ongoing fight to “stay human”. We were no longer human. There were humans around us though. Families on vacation to California. Couples.. businessmen traveling for work. And then there was us. 3 guys in clothes we’d slept in and worn for 10 days, reeking of someone else’s stale smoke. Our gear and bags piled up around us like a fort, looking likes assholes for wearing sunglasses indoors to hide our eyes. BUT it was all over after this final push.

Touchdown in L.A. and our manager Adam picks us up, “How was it? You guys wanna go get some drinks tonight? I’ve got a few friends going out and wanna hang.”

………… Maybe.

Thoughts and Feelings:screenshot_2016-10-15-08-35-052

– Always have a merch person. The worst part of the night is standing around the table tired and sweaty

– No sleep ruins everything. Especially motivation to go see historic landmarks in cool cities.

– No more early flights

– We saw Ron Weasley

– Shared bathrooms suck

– I think I’m a California kid..

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Notes from the Road: Bleeker – California Radio Show: Living The Dream

bleeker-bio-photo

Canadian alternative rock outfit Bleeker is currently on the road in support of their debut album Erase You, with stops in California ahead of a 22-show cross-Canada tour. The three-person band will be sharing their experiences in our Notes from the Road tour blog series.

Notes from the Road is Music Canada’s artist tour diary. Canadian artists on tour around the world will share their stories of fans, gigs and the “good, bad and the ugly” of touring!

bleeker_1I wasn’t ready. Not even close. We spent our summer touring the entirety of Canada and the United States. We drove over 20,000 miles, often through the night. Sleep had no schedule, and everywhere we went was unfamiliar. Don’t get me wrong… it was an absolutely amazing experience. But when you get home to your bed after a trip like that, you’ve never felt more comfortable, satisfied, and at peace.

Fast-forward a month, and there we were – the night before leaving on tour for 3 months, and my clothes hadn’t been washed or packed. My bag was still full of sand… sand from who knows where. I was never on a beach. And my passport was “somewhere.” I spent so much time saying goodbye to my friends that I forgot to get prepared for departure.

Here was the plan: 5 days in LA for one 30 min acoustic radio show, and then off to the UK.

bleeker_2We flew out of Toronto, landed in LAX, and headed to our hotel on the Sunset Strip with our manager Adam. He’s from Detroit, but he truly loves LA – I think it’s a good mix. We dropped our stuff off at the Grafton Hotel. Our home for the next few days.

Adam took us out every day and night in LA leading up to the acoustic show in Bakersfield, “The Armpit of California.” We lived the life! Soho House in Malibu for drinks. Working out at The Equinox gym. Sunday football drinking at 9:30 am. Movies at noon. No worries. No responsibilities, other than “use social media!!” We spent some great times with Adam and got to see a bit of his life outside of the business.bleeker_4 I think we’re on a more personal level with our label and management this time around and it makes everything so much better, and easier. Being able to really talk to the people that are helping you forge your career is important. Anyways, everything was smooth sailing.

 

Show day wasn’t much harder. A late load in which is always great. We showed up in Bakersfield to find the Radio Station had all the gear there for us to do a full-blown set. This meant they didn’t rent acoustic guitars.. so we set up a couple stools and played an acoustic set with electric guitars (our drummer was in Europe). It was hilarious. The crowd was great and we met some really nice people. We are really good acoustically, so we always love doing these things. Simple, minimal set up that, for the most part, gets the vibe of our band across. Worth the flight down.

bleeker_8

Back to LAX…$900 in baggage fees. That’s what the airport was charging us to fly our stuff to London. We couldn’t justify, or afford that! We frantically ripped all of our gear and suitcases apart in the middle of the airport, downsized and sent the excess in an Uber to Adam’s office. Including spare clothes, a bass, and a guitar pedal. We were now at $200. Manageable! What was next? We didn’t print off our Visas. There was ONE printer in the airport. It was in the business lounge and charged $60 to use it. We couldn’t go without that page, so we had to do it. Fortunately for us, the printer had stopped working. Fortunately because all I had to do was help the lady unplug and plug it back in. Always works. She gave us the print for free for our services. We showed up to the airport 4 hours early, and just managed to get on the plane. 10 hours overnight to a cloudier, colder place. The only info we knew about England was learned through James Bond movies. We also knew we were leaving paradise for the grittier leg of our 3-month tour.

bleeker_7

Thoughts and feelings:

  • I miss Tim Hortons coffee
  • Wear the same clothes as many days in a row as you can
  • I miss home if I wake up in the middle of the night or am hungover
  • Trying to stay healthy on tour is impossible
  • Not having to cook or clean is great
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Notes from the Road: A Secret Habit in the Music Industry

BelleStarr - bioCanadian singer and fiddler Miranda Mulholland has just completed a tour with Belle Starr, with stops across Canada and the US. She’ll be sharing her experiences in our Notes from the Road tour blog series.

Notes from the Road is Music Canada’s artist tour diary. Canadian artists on tour around the world will share their stories of fans, gigs and the “good, bad and the ugly” of touring!

There are some people in the music industry who have a secret habit. All of us musicians know about it though, we talk about it, we discuss these people in hushed tones. We really wish they would come forward and get it out in the open, to make this habit known. To be made an example of!

What is this secret habit? These industry people pay to see live music. Even though they work with musicians, even though they are friends with lots of musicians, even though we ALWAYS put them on the guest list because they are champions of our work, they pay anyway.

In this Brave New World – A world in which the digital age and its promise of “eliminating the middle man” has actually only eliminated the creative middle class, musicians are really struggling to find a sustainable business model.

What about streaming, you say? Well, streaming income is risible (785 plays = 12 cents!!) and actual sales are down because “why buy when you can stream for almost free?”

I get it. I really do – I am a consumer as well. There are benefits to having your music made readily available all over the world, I see that too.

Okay then, we are told touring is the way to make a living so we leave our families and hit the road. Expenses are high, however, guarantees are low and budgets get very tight. Every dollar matters. Every ticket matters.

So here’s the thing, music industry. We are glad to have you there at shows supporting us, we do understand that you go to a lot of concerts for work and it’s sweet when you buy us or all your colleagues drinks, but it would be even sweeter if you showed us you value our work by paying a cover. It really does make a difference.

Allow me to point out for a second that musicians pay YOU for the work YOU do. We pay you in commissions, in percentages and in flat out invoiced fees. We value your work. If YOU don’t value musicians and the work we do what kind of example does this set to the rest of the world at a time when we are all are trying to combat the notion that music should be free?

To the people who I see at every gig, who, on the list or not, hand over money to see a band, I want to thank you! We musicians know who you are, we talk about you with a lot of love and respect. We value YOU. THANK YOU!

Of all the secret habits to have in the music industry, this is a good one!

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Notes from the Road: Belle Starr – Winter Tour, 2016

BelleStarr - bioCanadian singer and fiddler Miranda Mulholland is currently on tour with Belle Starr, with stops across Canada and the US. She’ll be sharing her experiences in our Notes from the Road tour blog series.

Notes from the Road is Music Canada’s artist tour diary. Canadian artists on tour around the world will share their stories of fans, gigs and the “good, bad and the ugly” of touring!

 

A funny thing happened at the Canadian border the other night. As a band named for a famous outlaw, we shouldn’t be surprised by any skirmishes with the law, but this brush up got me thinking. After explaining where we were coming from and where we were going while crossing the border at midnight, the patrol guard actually asked us with condescension, pity and bewilderment “Is this really the way you make a living? All three of you?”

I am not surprised she asked. We did make a funny picture – packed tightly with our instruments, suitcases and merchandise in my 1998 Toyota Corolla. We had just played a two hour concert in Stowe, Vermont then negotiated some very treacherous roads for hours in a heavy snowstorm post show to reach where we would be sleeping that night so we were all rattled and pretty tired. Certainly not what one pictures when one dreams of being a touring musician.

For the majority of musicians, touring these days is not the glamorous or wild lifestyle depicted in movies, TV shows and books. That’s not to say these things don’t happen – you can buy me a glass of wine sometime and I can tell you some stories – but the quotidian existence of a touring musician is one of a lot of hurry up and wait, a few crippling lows and some exuberant highs for a very small paycheque. Somehow it seems to even out.

Our band, Belle Starr is a bit of a rarity as although all three of us are full time musicians, we don’t get to spend a lot of time touring together. Stephanie Cadman is a world class tap/step dancer as well as fiddler and was in the Toronto production of the musical Once. Kendel Carson plays in a duo with Dustin Bentall as well as being a member of Alan Doyle’s band and I am a member of Great Lake Swimmers among other projects. This makes it all the more special and exciting for us when we get to play music together.

We started this tour by flying to Alberta and driving up and down that beautiful province. Routing is rarely ideal and found us back and forth on the same stretch of highway a number of times and landing three days in a row for a needed coffee stop at the Red Deer Mall. I never thought I’d see that much of the Red Deer Mall.

The drive from Calgary to Cranbrook is one of Canada’s best. Watching the mountains appear to slowly rise up in front of you like benign giants watching over the rolling meadows of cows, horses and crops. While there are many long drives touring in Canada (Toronto to Winnipeg is 24 hours!) we really do have some of the most beautiful and diverse scenery in the world. And we see a lot of it! Sometimes the drives can be easy – a clear day, sunshine and empty road. We had our fair share of that on this tour but also torrential rains for hours, elk on the highway, twisty mountain roads and one of the scariest car crashes any of us had ever seen happen right in front of us. It takes nerves of steel sometimes!BelleStarr - road
Vancouver was next and we indulged in some delicious sushi and caught up with friends. One of the best parts of touring is getting to visit with pals all over the world – In contrast though, one of the hardest parts is not really ever being part of friend’s lives – not getting sharing the little victories and the hard times, birthdays, special occasions and casual hangouts. It seems to be an endless series of catch ups with hurried dinners between soundcheck and the show.

Crossing the border into the USA is always a bit difficult. Even with our very expensive permits to perform in the United States, it is not always a guarantee that we will get across. We had a lovely officer on this crossing who wished us a safe trip, so we breathed a collective sigh of relief. The spring-like weather down the coast was very welcome and we enjoyed the green and blossoms beginning.

Mondays and Tuesdays are hard to book so we had two days off in groovy Portland. Great coffee, amazing vintage stores and my favourite bookstore in the world, Powell’s. Instead of a hotel, we opted for an AirBnB to take advantage of laundry and save some money by cooking and catch up on sleep. It was such a treat to not have to drive anywhere for 48 hours!

The biggest performing highlight of the west coast tour was just around the corner. The Admiral Theatre in Bremerton, WA was built in 1942 as a movie theatre and was beautifully remodeled in 1997. It has a water theme with mermaids and waves and one of the only remaining steel marquees left in the USA. The staff were very professional and friendly and the audience was warm, appreciative and really made that show tremendously memorable.

BelleStarr - Marquee

Live music is all about alchemy. Creating something from simple elements into something unforgettable and valuable. What happens during a performance happens because all those elements are there and once over, can never be recreated. The audience has as much to do with this chemistry as the artists – it is a symbiotic relationship. This is what I love most, the ephemeral quality of live music. It happened. We heard it, felt it, experienced it – and it can never truly be captured, and that is what makes it so special.
Is this really the way I make a living? Why, yes. it is. Sometimes it’s the wild west out here, it can be really tough, but the highs are really high…and I couldn’t be more proud to make my living this way.

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