July 11th to July 21st was the most packed musical week and a half I've had thus far. Nine performances in eleven days, and six of those on Vancouver Island. My first international shows!
I'm not saying this is a world record or anything, but it was a personal best.
First of all, before we go any further, my mom and dad are amazing.
They traveled with me and made me feel completely at home everywhere we went. I often thank them for being my "team", and in every way, they are. I am so thankful for the two of them and their willingness to travel and adventure with me.
Following is a possibly longwinded post about how incredible Vancouver Island was. You've been warned.
If you don't read any further, I understand. I'm a bit like Lemony Snicket that way.
There are so many stories I could tell you, but here are some of the moments...
"... and Ferry boats..."
We took a late ferry from Port Angeles, WA, to Victoria on Vancouver Island. The wind was freezing, the sunset was gorgeous, and it all brought my last ferry boat memories to mind... There's always something to miss.
I live in a place where I see mountains and foothills to mountains every single day, and I'm still not used to that kind of beauty. I love it. The ocean though... Living so close to the ocean is still even more wonderfully mysterious to me. I grew up in the Midwest, and out-of-my-ordinary views like this make me happy.
I have to tell you a border-crossing story...
At the border in Victoria, the Canadian Border Guard was all business. As a border guard should be, but he was more than slightly intimidating. He asked us quite a few questions, and when he understood we were there for musical performances, he asked if I'd be selling any CDs. We answered "yes". He asked, "How much?" My dad grabbed a CD that was sitting within reach for such a moment as this and offered it to the man. "Ten bucks," my dad said. "No, how much merchandise do you have with you..." He wasn't asking to buy one.
He eventually allowed us into the country.
We took the ferry a bit earlier than originally planned because of an unexpected invitation to be a guest on "Songwriter's Circle with Pam Edgar"--a weekly radio program in Nanaimo--on Sunday morning. Sunday morning, I wasn't sure what we'd talk about or how much time we were looking at, but Pam and I talked for an hour. She played a number of my songs--asking me about inspirations and backstories, and I played a few live... I hope it was as enjoyable to listen to as it was to simply talk songs and songwriting.
Later that night, I played my first show at the Victoria Folk Music Society.
Other than the microphone overhead, this was an entirely acoustic show--which was a new experience, and (at first) I may have overcompensated vocally for fear of not being heard; but this show set the tone for the week. The audience warmly welcomed me and made me feel like a million bucks. Not a bad way to start.
One of the highlights for every show on Vancouver Island was having the chance to sing some of my favorite Canadian songwriters' songs in Canada. I mentioned this once, and I got the response that "this isn't Canada... this is the Island".
Does this mean I haven't really been to Canada? Or Texas?
(Well, that's another story.)
It was such a range of shows for a week. I went from the Victoria Folk Music Society where everyone was singing along to every familiar song to Char's Landing, suddenly feeling the more intimate setting of a cozy house concert in a beautiful 100 year old, renovated church building with its rich, sweet acoustics.
On the way up to Char's Landing in Port Alberni, we pulled off the highway to walk through Cathedral Grove. Seeing a redwood forest is still on my bucket list, but walking around these 300-800 year old Douglas firs is the closest I've yet been.
Then it was on to the 39 Days of July Festival in Duncan...
We'd gone to hear other performers at the festival earlier in the day, and I got an idea of what the crowd might be like. Possibly a little talkative around the edges. Going early didn't prepare me though for the 200 people who were later in my audience, quietly listening as if we were in a theater and not an open park. Let me tell ya, it is so much fun singing to an audience that wants to listen.
From there, I had to get straight to Victoria (with very little time to spare) to play at Gorgeous Coffee, and I immediately had flashbacks to three or four summers ago playing almost every weekend at Upper Eastside Coffee Co. in East Wenatchee. Some very sweet memories are held right there.
It was a bit humbling to go from playing for 200 people--being asked for "just one more song!" before I left--to playing for 10 people within an hour and a half. However, my friends, there was a little bit of someday at Gorgeous Coffee, too.
The next night, I played at The Corner Lounge in Nanaimo. I sang every Gordon Lightfoot song I knew off the top of my head and amazingly remembered the lyrics in all of their elegant orders. One man who was sitting pretty close to where I was standing would turn around every now and then when I finished a song and say,
"That was terrible."
The first time he said it, I was a bit taken aback, thinking...well, that was kind of harsh, but then I realized he was singing along to every cover song. He was singing all of my terrible songs right along with me. At one point, he added to his phrase. "That was terrible... and when I say terrible, I mean great." I was grateful for the clarification.
My last show on Vancouver Island was at the Ground Zero Acoustic Lounge in Parksville, and I'd say we somehow saved the best for last. Which is saying something--because every show was my favorite!
(This next picture was taken by Jack and Shelley--a couple of wonderful photographers who came to the show because they love to support musicians with their photography.)
There was a lot of back and forth at this show, and I loved it. I love it when people in the audience feel like they can talk to me. They make me feel I belong. Also, they made my night when they all enthusiastically sang "The Edge of Wave and World" with me. Sometimes people don't want to sing along, but it's so much more fun when they do.
After singing "Song for a Winter's Night" earlier in the show, someone close to the back called out, "Better than Gordon Lightfoot!"
A second later, another voice added, "Better than Sarah McLachlan!"
Not expecting to hear either of these statements ever in my life or after, I genuinely didn't know what to say to that, and I told them so. The first voice said, "Just smile and say thank you."
So I did. And I do. Thank you.
Overall, this mini-tour was wonderful from start to finish, and I think we'll have to do it all again. I met so many wonderful people who made me feel welcome as soon as I walked in the door. People who made me feel adopted into their lives. People willing to tell me stories of their own. People who didn't know me and yet were willing to give me a little bit of their time so I could sing my heart out.
Yes, we'll have to do it all again. Until then, so long, Vancouver Island...
To top it all off...
If you've been to any of my shows, it is very likely you've met my mom and dad. Remember when I said they're amazing? Well, they're amazing. They've been to them all. Which means they've heard my songs a thousand times and my stories just as many. A particular story they've heard countless times (and were a part of) is the one about looking for wild horses on the Outerbanks of North Carolina.
(Short story shorter, they were nowhere to be seen.)
Well, after our Vancouver Island adventures, they surprised me with this beautiful painting...
They brought me seven wild horses that are a lot easier to find, and now I get to see them every single day.
If you made it this far, thank you for wandering with me!
Until the next adventure...
All the love,