Thursday, October 21, 2010

Francey's Summer Tour

David at the Kate Wolf Festival - by Craig Werth

We had quite a summer, Craig and I.

It took us to the West coast twice and on two tours of duty in the Maritimes, with many stops in between. A full festival card.

Our early trip west took us to Laytonville, California and the Kate Wolfe Festival - my first visit to the fabled event. Our welcome was as warm as the weather, and the serene nature of the festival, the adjusted pace, were welcomed by us. Wavy Gravy walked his fish through the crowd during the day and Steve Earle laid forth from the main stage at night. A return to a gentler time on the whole. Wonderful.

We returned to the east and touring - our next festival taking us to the end of the long road in Canso N.S. for the Stan Rogers Festival where the next port of call would be the Azores. Lots of friends at this festival, a nice reunion with the Good Lovlies, a brilliant rendition of “White Squall” by pal Dave Gunning, and a private song session with JP Cormier in his well traveled van. Went with Chuck Brodsky to a kitchen party with seemingly endless crab, heaped on a kitchen table covered in layers of newspaper. Heard tales of growing up in Canso from Jim and George, how you used to draw your curtains if you were having crab for dinner, crab being considered poor folks food. How things change! The songs followed the feast of course. A treat in every way.

We continued touring our way back to Orillia Ontario and the 50th anniversary of the Mariposa Folk Festival. It was great to be back and there were plenty of friends to visit with. Enjoyed workshops with Caitlin Hanford, Suzie Vinick, and others.

Craig and I joined Mike Ford to perform tunes from our Seaway CD. It is always a blast to play with Fordy, and the fact that we performed on the top deck of James Gordon’s houseboat made it all very special indeed. What a rare opportunity. That was followed by surprise guests Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor and a brilliant set of acoustic Blue Rodeo hits. Later on the main stage Ian and Sylvia shared some songs and a kiss and Gordon Lightfoot brought the three days to a sweet close.

Flew west once again for a split weekend between Mission Folk Festival and the Islands Folk Festival in Duncan BC. We arrived in Mission, grateful to be back. We Invaded the house of pals Bill Campbell and Anne Sennae along with Findley Napier and the Barroom Mountaineers. A splendid time was had by all. Findley’s show was a brilliant thing, the songwriting sharp and intriguing the playing equally so. On the workshop stages we were lucky enough to get a visit in and hear Murray McLaughlin perform a beautiful new song, hear Jill Barber live for the first time, and sing every word of Annie’s House with the crowd. Sat in the beer tent visiting with old friends as Tom Landa and the Paperboys rocked out from the main stage while the crowd danced. It was a great goodbye.

Our drive to the ferry next morning with pal Capt. Ian was enjoyable as always, the ferry ride was beautiful and we arrived at Islands Festival in time to do our main stage show. It had been a while since we played the festival and as always it was good to get caught up with friends. Another festival where the serenity is much appreciated and the pace of things allows you to step to the side of the road and take a breather. It never hurts to be surrounded by mountains and ocean. An altogether to brief a visit, made up for by a great set to a crowd that seemed like a gathering of friends.

All the way back to the east coast and the Lunenburg Harbour Folk Festival, Nova Scotia, a long time favorite. Once again we split the weekend, this time with the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. Johns NFLD. For this tour we were traveling with long time band mate and friend Geoff Somers on mandolin and fiddle. A good time was assured.

Oddly enough I met up with a few bands and friends in the Beer Store upon arrival. How appropriate. The Barra MacNeils closed the tent that night, an outstanding set of songs and tunes, woven into a compelling and mesmerizing set - brilliant. Our turn came the following evening. Shelagh Rogers hosted the evening, delighting everyone. I enjoyed her between set banter as much as I enjoyed the music, and hope we can work together at many festivals to come. We had a memorable evening of singing with the entire tent, the set geared to songs we could share. It is an opportunity not to be wasted, to hear all those voices singing your song back to you. It was such an honour to be back playing for the 25th anniversary of this special place. Connie Kaldor and James Keelaghan shone in the workshops we did, and on the main stage. James and I had co-written some songs at the Celtic Colours Song House the previous year, and I got to hear them live for the first time. He did them proud. We stayed up visiting at the after hours until we left on the early flight for St. Johns.

Arrived early in St. Johns but I stayed up and finished a song I started the night before. Went down to Bannerman Park and immediately ran in to good pal Jim Payne and the enjoyment commenced. Played a packed tent acoustic set with road pal Old Man Leudeke and got to hear Amelia Curran do her excellent songs live. It was great to take the main stage, familiar and welcoming, the crowd singing back from the darkness - a moving moment. Had a great visit with Archie Fisher - in, of all places, the beer tent. Getting to visit NFLD is one of the best things about this job and it is not time I like to waste. It is precious and passes all too quickly, as it did this time. Can’t wait to go back. More about our trip to Corner Brook later!

Our next festival took us to historic Portsmouth New Hampshire for a performance as part of the Prescott Park Arts Festival, for pal Ben Anderson. Craig lives just down the road and had a half hour drive for this one. It is the second year in a row we have been invited down, and the second year in a row we were rained out of the park. The previous year we played to a bulging green room tent in a truly memorable show. This year we played in a perfect little theatre to a great crowd. I welcomed everyone to “the Second Annual David Francey Rain Out at Prescott Park” and a splendid evening got underway. Making it very special for me was having my friend Annie Provanzano in the audience when we sang Annie’s House. Rain or no, it was still a wonderful time. We opened for Richard Thompson a couple of days later at the Prescott Park site itself beside the Piscataquis River and received a warm response. A beautiful stage to play, and of course, it didn’t rain on Richard Thompson. Then, some welcome time in the pubs of old Portsmouth, with friends old and new.

The festival season ended in upstate New York, at the Turtle Hill Folk Festival in Rush NY. Presented by the Golden Link Folk Singing Society, there is always a ready choir at workshop and main stage performances. It was a festival where you had the time to visit with fans and performers alike. I finally met Cliff Eberhart and got to hear why he has garnered so many accolades over the years. A brilliant and insightful songwriter if ever there was one, blessed with a gift of a voice. Great stories in the green room as well - hilarious. I have played more than a few festivals with Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart over the years, but it has been a long time since I got the chance to sit and catch a whole set. It was exceptional, and while watching I realized that I would like to play guitar like Stacey does, rock steady, solid and subtle. I’m currently working on it having been inspired. An enjoyable finale with all on stage wrapped up a peaceful and intimate festival, with all the audience singing with all of us.

So there you have it. That was a short synopsis of David and Craig's Excellent Festival Tour. If there are two luckier men rattling around the continent, I have yet to meet them.