Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Its A Long Way To Town If You Want To Rock And Roll

   Mel's annual birthday party and general whoop-up is a much anticipated event up in Pemberton. Her partner Kirk runs a car repair outfit in town and puts on a BBQ, barn dance and general whoop up for her this time every year. Included in the evenings fun is live music and I started inviting myself several years back.
   The day before I go out and have a look at my van. I've had some tire problems on my Safari tour bus recently, it is a long story that includes a ruined tire and trying to match it because it is an all wheel drive and.....anyways, the long and short of it is that Melanie's birthday rolled around and I still had a tour bus with 3 tires. I figured I would jack both my vehicles up and put the pickup wheels on the van to go in with. It turned out to be more work than I was interested in, and on top of it all the lug nuts were seizing and very difficult to remove, I had a several foot long snipe for leverage too! So I figure I will put on the donut spare to go in on. The damn nuts barely go on and end up seizing before the rim is on tight, so like I say, I had a snipe on my breaker bar and kept givin' her until the wheel stud broke off. Well, I was a little choked about that, but I could still go in on 4 lug nuts. So I proceed to tighten up another...it too snaps off.
   I end up with the rusty spare wheel sort of secured on there with 3 lug nuts. I figure this is fine as long as I take it easy. Saturday rolls around and I start loading all my gear in the tour bus van. I've got a little bigger kit than most drummers, and I was supplying the PA system. You see the mountain of gear I've got and you would think Cirque du Soliel was showing up. The speakers are almost the size of me and I'm getting too old to pack my own stuff around, then theres the sub woofer for my bass drum that is all I can do to lift it. I get it all stuffed in there and it is quite a load. I was still wondering how well that front wheel was on there, but decided to make a slow run for town, allowing 2 hours to get there.  I'm driving along and everything is going pretty good, I'm going slowly, so I have plenty of time to think. Way down the road, almost at the lake, all of a sudden it occurs to me that I forgot my bass drum foot pedal back home. I slammed on the brakes and dug around in there and sure as hell, no foot pedal. I couldn't play with out it. I suppose I could,....but I wouldn't. I called myself a few names while I turned around a charged back home, I arrived back in a huff and retrieved the pedal, and thought to check the front wheel before leaving to see that it is working loose once more. So I get my long handled wrench on there to snug it up and just as I figured would happen, another stud busts off. So holy cow, its a good thing I have two vehicles, I backed my half broken down old rat truck over and started to pile all my gear in the back. It had taken an hour and a half to carefully stow the equipment and kit in the van, but about 10 minutes to pile it all in the back of the pickup, behind the seat and strapped in the passenger seat and away I went, half expecting the pickup to fall apart or calve on the road.
   Kirk and Mel live at a horse riding center not far out of Pemberton. We set up right in the stables for the dance later where we couldn't do any damage and there was a big feed and BBQ going on just outside.

Things really began to liven up out there around the old fire pit after dark.

   This is my favorite seat, looking at musicians backsides. My band mate in Blackwater MC, Josh 'Frontman' Fairbrother was there. Local keyboard whiz Roz sat on my sub woofer with her keys on a table barn dance style, and Jared showed up with his bass.  Cowboy Sam Field wandered in and played a few sets of country. 
   While this is going on I'm watching a giggling crew string up a (fittingly enough) horse like pinata in the area at stage front. They wheel a wobbly but highly enthusiastic Melanie in and the crowd follows, and we just keep rockin' on. Kirk put the blindfold on and armed her with an appropriate pinata bat, which I think was previously a post for a fence someplace. Melanie grew up in the maple sugar region of Quebec, she works for the Village of Pemberton, pruning trees with a chainsaw, operating a large weed whacker, and doing heavy landscape work. For relaxation she drives a race car and flings bales of hay around the riding stable.
I had to question the wisdom of providing her with such a formidable weapon, but we were in a horse barn after all, and the horses had been let out for the night for their own protection. At the crowds urging she began to take great powerful swats into the air amid great cheers. At one point, on one of the rare occasions she had actually been facing in the right direction, she completely severed the rope holding the poor pinata horse.  Kirk ran in ducking and got her disarmed, and a crew came in to tie it back up to the rafter beam.  Mel was warmed up now, and the crowd backed up a little as Kirk lowered the blindfold,  pointed her more or less in the right direction, then got the hell out of the way. After a few monster swipes into space she got turned around and chased the crowd clear out the other end of the stable before swinging her way back towards the pinata. Josh, Roz and Jared were getting ready to unplug and make a run for it . There was a flurry of wood splinters and chips flying, light bulbs going out and people screamed for their lives, until finally by chance she connected a great hay maker to the nervously swinging pinata pony. Pow! The crowd howled and there was a scramble for the candies that exploded and went everywhere.  The madness carried on until the wee hours and things started to wind down and the fire pit out front burnt low. I backed my truck in and proceeded to break everything down and piled in the back for the trip back to the bush.
   Between sets all evening, old Frontman had been no stranger to the beer cooler out at the fire pit and was in obvious need of a ride home, and possibly even a little help up his steps too.
"Thanksh for coming man." he says when I drop him off, "Drive shafe".
He'll go back for his 4x4, amp and guitar in the afternoon, when he recalls where he left it.
   About 2 am I stopped at the Petrocan for gas and mix up a coffee for the long trip home. While there I chatted with the huge night shift taxi driver I've known for years, and told him where I had been playing.
"Oh ya!", booms Littleboy, "I got all kinds of trips out of there tonight!".
    The drive home I've done a thousand times before feels like. I won't see another vehicle once I leave Pemberton. Late at night like this after a gig, driving slow with my gear aboard I sort of zone out and it goes by not so bad. I always make sure I have good boots along, just in case I need to walk the last 10 miles or something some night.   I was afraid of one thing... rain.  All the PA equipment was uncovered in back, along with my prized Gretsch custom drums.  So sure as hell, just when I think I have it made it begins to rain way back there around the 36 km marker. It starts to really come down when I cross Rogers Creek, and just after 4 am I pulled into the lit up yard here at the Lodge. I swung around back to park under cover  and there is this great big embarrassed looking bear standing there, all soaking wet and dripping.  He has nabbed himself a bag of recyclables and was standing there wondering what to do with it when I wheel in and surprise him in the headlights. He stares at me for a moment then takes the bag and runs off, stomping on it with his hind foot and leaving a trail of cans, bottles and detergent jugs across the yard and off into the dark, wet woods.
But I was home safe, and pulled off one more adventure to play someplace, despite much adversity. It turns out forgetting the foot pedal behind actually saved my butt, as the van never would have made the round trip there and back.
I wonder if Charlie Watts has to chase bears off his lawn when he returns from gigs?

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